For the briefest of times, Floyd Hyde entered Fresno’s political world, coming in at the very top as the city’s 17th mayor, and then, almost as fast, he was gone.
Mr. Hyde, however, was anything but a flash in the pan locally. He was a Fresno original, born and raised here. And even though he left before his single mayoral term was finished, he most definitely had politics in his blood, from Fresno State student body president to a federal government stint to a long private sector career in Washington, D.C., after that, including federal lobbying on behalf of both Fresno city and county.
And, while here, made a huge difference in the city.
I consider him a part of what we call the greatest generation. He and his peers and the group of that era singularly put Fresno on the map nationally.
Fresno developer Ed Kashian on former Fresno Mayor Floyd Hyde
“I consider him a part of what we call the greatest generation,” Fresno developer Ed Kashian said. “He and his peers and the group of that era singularly put Fresno on the map nationally.”
Mr. Hyde, 95, died Tuesday in Silver Springs, Md., after a long battle with myelodysplastic syndromes, also known as MDS, a rare disease in which the bone marrow fails to make enough healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
“He still loved Fresno,” said his son Tim Hyde, who lives in Miami Beach. “It remained very, very near and dear to his heart. He never forgot Fresno.”
But he hadn’t been back to visit much lately. The Hyde family had scattered across the nation, and his friends and colleagues passed away over time.
“At 95, you pretty much outlive all your close friends,” Tim Hyde said.
Locally, however, those that knew Hyde recalled an incredibly bright person who always did his homework as a public official. They also recalled a guy who, while a registered Republican, may have been a closet Democrat.
Former congressman Richard Lehman, who knew and worked with Mr. Hyde from the 1960s through the 1980s, called him “a liberal Republican.”
And another former mayor, Dale Doig, said, “When he was mayor, he was a Republican who basically voted Democratic.”
Mr. Hyde was born March 18, 1921, in Fresno. The timeline is sketchy, but Mr. Hyde most definitely attended Fresno State and was its student body president during the 1942-43 school year. At some point, his son Tim said, his father enlisted in the Marine Corps and earned his officer commission at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.
Tim Hyde said his father achieved the rank of captain and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and was stationed in Japan after the Japanese surrender.
Mr. Hyde eventually returned stateside and earned a law degree from the University of Southern California.
His public career began in early 1965, when he kicked off a campaign for mayor. City elections at that time were held in odd-numbered years. Mr. Hyde wasn’t expected to win. He wasn’t even expected to come in second.
At the time, Wallace Henderson was mayor, appointed to the post after the death of Arthur Selland. Henderson announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, and political veterans Bert DeLotto and James Mandella were the frontrunners over Mr. Hyde, the newcomer. At age 43, Mr. Hyde beat them both.
In his campaign, he may have foreshadowed former Mayor Alan Autry and his tale of two cities, saying Fresno was “a city divided, divided geographically and divided on purpose.” He also wanted to broaden the city’s tax base, and he said taxes were too high.
Mr. Hyde presided over the city at a time of great change. The civil rights movement was in full swing, as was the political unrest of the latter half of the 1960s. At the same time, Fresno itself was undergoing great change. Kashian recalled major downtown redevelopment at the time.
Lehman, then Fresno City College student body president (note: the original version of this story omitted the words “student body”), was invited by Mr. Hyde to join a new national organization he was helping form called the National Urban Coalition, which was a group dedicated to solving problems tied to race and poverty.
When he was mayor, he was a Republican who basically voted Democratic.
Former Fresno Mayor Dale Doig on Floyd Hyde
“He was a good guy,” said Doig, who was Fresno’s mayor from 1985 to 1989. “I heard him make speeches, and he was always well-prepared. He had copious notes.”
By 1969, as Mr. Hyde’s first term was headed toward its end, President Richard Nixon appointed him as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Hyde was eventually named HUD’s undersecretary, but resigned in frustration less than a year later. It was a time when Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal, but while Hyde acknowledged that the scandal was a distraction – “it took some zap out of you” – he said that wasn’t the reason for his departure. He talked of a lack of will to improve the nation’s cities and said he was unhappy with the Nixon administration’s community development policies.
He went to the private sector, taking a job with a management consulting firm. He also lectured on urban problems, and even attacked then California Gov. Ronald Reagan for failing to assert state leadership to fight urban blight and haphazard growth. He also lectured on urban affairs at Harvard University, public affairs at Texas Southern University and was a visiting scholar at the Washington, D.C., center of his law school alma mater, USC.
In 1981, Mr. Hyde was given the Distinguished Leadership Award from the National Urban Coalition. Mr. Hyde had been active in the group at its formation in the late 1960s. Tim Hyde said his father was also National Housing Conference president for three years and served on the Fannie Mae board of directors for a year.
He remained active throughout the 1980s, doing federal lobbying for both Fresno city and Fresno County. He also was again critical of Reagan, this time as president.
In 1982, he wrote a Bee commentary that predicted Reagan’s fiscal policy would double the U.S. budget deficit. In 1985, he pitched a plan to levy a 5 percent surtax on corporations and personal incomes, with the money going to a trust fund to retire the national debt.
Looking back, Tim Hyde had recently asked his father why he was a Republican, when his ideas seemed more suited to the Democratic Party. Mr. Hyde’s response, Tim Hyde said, was that the Republican Party had changed more than he had changed.
All along, Tim Hyde said his father had been getting blood transfusions to battle the MDS, but recently decided to quit getting them. His most recent wife, Olivia, passed away in April 2015. Even with the end near, though, Tim Hyde said his father was alert – and politically engaged.
He was watching the national political conventions, and expressed his dislike of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Lehman remembers a caring person who looked out for him, from the time he was a Fresno City College student and even during his time in Congress,
“I genuinely liked him,” Lehman said. “Even if he just wanted to get a cup of coffee (in his congressional office). I didn’t care if he just wanted to sit around. I always felt he was looking out for me. He always gave good advice.”
Born: March 18, 1921
Died: July 26, 2016
Occupation: Former Fresno mayor, undersecretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, attorney, federal lobbyist
Survivors: Two children (a third deceased), two stepchildren (two deceased), seven grandchildren.