Friday, September 29, 2017

The Graveside Speech of Miles Floyd


The Graveside Speech of Miles Floyd
At the Dedication of his Grandfather’s Headstone
July 29, 2017
Nitta Yuma Cemetery - Nitta Yuma, Mississippi

"I’m not going to be long, but I had to write this down today, because I knew this was going to be an emotional day for me, especially when they were playing “Corinne Corrina.”

So y’all bear with me on this okay. My name is Miles Floyd, and I’m the step-grandson of Bo Carter. I’m sad to say that during Bo’s lifetime I didn’t get a chance to meet him in person, but I was fortunate enough to meet his son, Ezell Chatmon.

Ezell played an important role in my life, as a youngster coming up. He always said to me—I can remember back in the sixties and seventies—finish school and make something out of myself. Well, I finished school but I’m still working on making something of myself [pause for laughter].

I can remember as though it were yesterday, that they always talked to me about his father and his music. And he always he always told me that once he retired, we were going to set out, take a trip and find out more about Bo and his music. But after Mr. E retired, that didn’t happen.

My mother became disabled and Mr. E spent the rest of his life taking care of my mother, until 1991, and that’s when he got in bad health. What this day means to me, just by me saying thank you was not good enough, I’m going to give you the reason why today is so special to me.

It was the day after Christmas 1991. Mr. E was lying in the bed in the hospital, and that afternoon he opened his eyes and looked at me and beckoned—and that was a happy moment for me—because he was, as they said, unconscious. But anyway he beckoned for me to come his bed, and he looked up at me, and he asked, "Where was my mother?"

I told him she was sitting in the corner, right by your bedside. So, he was speaking in a soft tone. [You see] my mother worries a lot, but what Ezell said to me made my day become sad too. Because he looked up at me and said he wanted me to do three things for him. He knew he wasn’t going to walk out of that hospital. And I didn’t want to hear that but he kept saying, “Just listen.” And I want to share those three things with you today.

I don’t know if it’s appropriate or not, but it’s something I have been carrying with me for a long time. His first request of me was to find his mom’s grave and bury him beside it. His second request was to me to take care of Roberta, which is my mother. I took care of her until 2012 when she passed away. The request is because of you here today. I have been working on this for twenty years. I didn’t know which way to go other than looking at the internet."

Miles Floyd during his speech
Photo: Bill Steber

"But today I want to thank in this order, and this is the way it happened to me, a young man by the name of Patrick Leblanc, [who organized the Crossroads Blues Festival dedicated to Johnny Shines in Greenwood in the early 1990s] who now resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, came to me and my family in 2004, and since that time Pat educated me about Bo. His music his life, everything that a person would need to know. So I thank Patrick Leblanc for that, but he is not here with us today.
The second person I would like to thank is Barry Shrum. That’s him standing right there, he and his wife, from Nashville, Tennessee. Barry is something I call my legal advisor, but Barry I will say this to you today. I’m thankful for meeting you. We’ve been acquainted with each other for going on now two years. I know when you get off the phone with me sometimes, you feel like beating your head up against a wall. But it’s not nothing intentionally okay. Now, the third thanks goes to all of you. I got to give credit to you.

That third wish that Ezell asked me to find out about his daddy, today, you guys fulfilled that third wish for me, my heart is heavy, and I really do thank each of you for making this day possible.

And I told my family when I got here that I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself, get up there and get ready to make a speech, but when your heart tells you to say something, say it anyway. So I’m speaking from my heart. DeWayne, the Mt. Zion organization, all the people who supported this today, I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Last but not least, my family there. I know it’s been hard living with me these past few years because of my frustrations, but thanks to each and every person who was here today, those frustrations have lightened up. Because I wanted to fulfill Mr. E’s three wishes. 

As I stand here, Bo, I’m proud to be your grandson, very proud, and I can’t wait to get back to Bolton, Mississippi and stand beside your son’s grave, and say your three wishes have been fulfilled. Thank you."