Fresno lost a gentle giant with the recent death of my former Fresno City Council seatmate, Mayor Floyd Hyde. Hyde, 95, died July 26 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.
For nearly four years, we served side by side at the dais. I was constantly amazed at Floyd’s persuasive ability to influence opponents during heated debates, his temperament when hostilities erupted, and his mild-mannered personality that frequently turned a hardened foe into a supporter, and thus an additional win for the city and its taxpayers.
Our police intelligence unit had picked up reliable information that three hit men from Los Angeles were on a revenge mission to Fresno to “pay back” the mayor and council members for denying the employment of a certain candidate for city manager. Each of us had five officers at our house whenever we were at home. Three of our homes including mine, were subjected to shotgun blasts that knocked out the front windows.
Mayor Hyde was the consummate conservative Republican, who was admired and respected by the opposition party. Those leaders constantly tried to entice him into switching his affiliation. He never did.
Floyd and I, along with our wives, were often together because we had a camaraderie that started long before either of us went into politics. That early friendship was developed at a bar and over what Floyd had named our “double bubble.”
The bar was actually the counter at Carnation’s Ice Cream parlor in the Tower District. We were at the counter so often that Floyd decided one day that we should stop eating the bananas that came with our banana splits. He invented our new dessert, “The Double Bubble.”
Floyd wrote out the recipe: “In the same trough dish used for a banana split, place one extra-large scoop of chocolate ice cream next to an equally large helping of vanilla. Sprinkle with crushed almonds and decorate on top with four cherries.”
Floyd’s Double Bubble became a best seller at Carnation’s in the late 1960s. Whenever the four of us went to a movie, which was often, or to a Fresno State game, we seemed to always end up at Carnation’s.
When Floyd and I were sworn into office, and I took my seat beside him, he leaned over and said, “Remember, you’re riding shotgun on my wagon. I hope you enjoy the ride.”
Later on that first day, I wrote a prayer that was often cited by ministers as the opening event for our council meetings. It ended with these words: “Lord, we do not ask for tasks to match our strength; we ask for strength to match our tasks.”
The words in that prayer became prophetic.
We were fortunate that Mayor Hyde had the “right stuff” at the right time to guide our growing city through the tumultuous second half of the 1960s. It was during that period when the South Angus Street Redevelopment Project had tempers flaring. A three-day riot in west Fresno severely damaged property, lives and our fragile racial relations.
The controversial property rezoning for the development of Fashion Fair had cost taxpayers millions of dollars in added assessments, and the introduction of Urban Growth Development Regulations brought out an angry, vocal protest from developers.
To further complicate the urban environment, our police intelligence unit had picked up reliable information that three hit men from Los Angeles were on a revenge mission to Fresno to “pay back” the mayor and council members for denying the employment of a certain candidate for city manager.
All of us on the council were placed under immediate police escort and protection. Each of us had five officers at our house whenever we were at home; one inside and one on each side. Even with that protection, three of our homes including mine, were subjected to shotgun blasts that knocked out the front windows.
After the hit men were found and arrested, certain attendees at council meetings tried to disrupt our proceedings, but Hyde was more than equal to the task. When they lined up at the podium to filibuster, Hyde was one step ahead of them. He invoked a three-minute rule and handed the city clerk his watch so she could keep track of the oration time limit.
When the protesters urged council members to overrule the mayor, the four Democrats joined the two Republicans in a unanimous vote of support for the mayor.
Hyde’s demeanor and his strength were more than equal to each task we faced. He showed that remarkable ability on numerous times. It was my honor to ride shotgun on his wagon.
To those many, like me, who shared his friendship, we knew that Floyd Hyde did not invent common sense; he just had a patent on its storage and usage.
Above all, as a combat-tested Marine, he was transparently honest and honorable.