It has been my good fortune to become acquainted with dozens of passionate University of Georgia fans over the years. Those whose loyalty and devotion warm your heart. Not those who paint their faces and scream into cameras, but those who display unrestrained passion for their favorite team, those who celebrate with pride and affection in good times and who are tolerant when good times don’t roll.
Everywhere I go across the state, I hear somebody say in some town that some person in their midst is Georgia’s greatest fan. I have met many of those greatest fans and there often is substance to their rankings. If I had to choose Georgia’s greatest fan, I’d be hard pressed to identify a No. 1. However, I think I could, without question, say that Sarah Annie Floyd of Thomasville was Georgia’s most humble fan. She died recently at 95, which brought tears to an entire county.
Even though she was wheelchair-bound the last 20 years of her life, you would not be far wrong if someone had asked you to define kinetic energy and you said, “Sarah Annie.” If you believe love will take you a long way in life, then you only have to have known Sarah Annie or talk to one of her friends. When she was born, she well could have been christened, “Sarah Annie Altruism Floyd.” She could have written the Golden Rule. And, by George, she lived it for sure. If God loves a cheerful giver, she was duly welcomed through the Pearly Gates last weekend when that big heart, which had generously blessed so many in Thomas County, simply gave out on her.
We can’t ask her about her sendoff, those closest to her, know that she was overwhelmed that in the last week of her life, one of her boys, Mike Bobo, Georgia’s offensive coordinator visited her, not once, but twice. A week before she died and again last Monday when he flew into Thomasville to speak at the Thomasville High School banquet. She loved Mike Bobo and was emotionally torn when there was talk of him leaving Athens. “Oh, how nice it would be for that sweet boy of mine to get a head coaching job,” she would say. “He really deserves it, but I don’t think I could stand it if he coached anywhere other than Georgia.”
Sarah Annie, as her age suggests, saw changing times and mores come about. You can easily surmise that she experienced the integration of the school systems. That wasn’t something she found intolerable like a lot of folks. Another of her favorites was Alphonso Ellis, whom she practically adopted. As an employee of a department store, she was entitled to a discount. She would buy clothes for Alphonso, making sure that he was properly dressed when his high school team went on a road game or staged a banquet. She would take him out for meals, and everyone knew that Sarah Annie wasn’t well heeled.
She and her smiling, ebullient companion of almost 40 years, Dotty Thompson, once invited Alphonso’s mother to go to a game in Athens. When they checked into a downtown Athens motel, Dotty had arranged for a room with two double beds — one for Sarah Annie and Dotty and one for Elizabeth Ellis. This came as a shock to Alphonso’s mother who exclaimed, “Y’all gonna let me stay in the same room with you?” Sarah Annie’s immediate retort was, “Well, Elizabeth, why not?”
Alphonso loved Sarah Annie so much that when he came home to Thomasville after the Peach Bowl in 1989, he brought her his souvenir game jersey. How did Sarah Annie show her appreciation? She wore it to church. “When Alphonso died from cancer,” Dotty remembers, “It almost killed Sarah Annie.” There is a touching and unforgettable scene that would eventually play out with Alphonso’s Peach Bowl jersey. A couple of years ago, Sarah Annie gave Alphonso’s daughter, Aleah, the jersey. Something to remind Aleah of her late father.
Sarah Annie was the first female president of the Thomasville Touchdown Club. She volunteered for every charity in the county. For years she sold season football tickets to Thomasville games. It was her way of helping support the team. If anybody ever had a million-dollar smile, it was Sarah Annie. When you greeted her, she always had outstretched and welcoming arms. You felt her invigorating energy as she gave you a warm hug, like the ones she gave Mike Bobo, Alphonso Ellis, and countless others.
Sarah Annie, the silver-haired matriarch of Thomasville, did have a few enemies but not the ones you might expect. Her enemies in life were greed, selfishness, prejudice, pettiness, envy and vanity. Her unconditional love bought a lift to the spirits for countless people in her hometown which she adored like a summertime rain shower.