George Floyd remembered by friends and family as hardworking 'gentle giant'

The 46-year-old was seen as a friendly member of the community,

June 03, 2020, 5:19 PM

George Floyd's life had its highs and lows, but his friends and family said he was "a gentle giant."

Those loved ones, especially Floyd's 6-year-old daughter Gianna, said they are still grappling with his death, are holding on to the memories of his hard work, compassion and faith.

"He played with me," Gianna told "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.

Floyd spent most of his life in Houston, Texas, and grew up in the Third Ward. While attending Yates High School, Floyd, who stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall, was a star tight end on the football team and played in the 1992 state championship.

PHOTO: George Floyd is pictured in an undated photo released by the office of Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump.
George Floyd is pictured in an undated photo released by the office of Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump.
Courtesy Ben Crump Law

Milton Carney, another longtime friend of Floyd, told ABC News affiliate KTRK he was always gentle.

"Anybody who knows him will tell you he's not confrontational," he said.

Roxie Washington, Gianna's mother, recalled to "GMA" how Floyd lit up with excitement when his daughter was born.

"She cried and he heard her," she said. "They wiped her off and they gave her to him. I mean that was his baby. He wanted that moment though. He really really wanted that moment. He looked forward to that."

PHOTO: This undated handout photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd.
This undated handout photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd.
Christopher Harris via AP

Washington, holding back tears, talked about how Floyd made sure he was there for Gianna and made her feel special.

"He would put her on his shoulders," she said. "She didn't have to play with nobody else because daddy was gonna play all day long."

Floyd was known by friends and family for his faith and dedication to his church community. Church leaders said he helped organize basketball charity events, bible study sessions and other related activities.

"You know, if he was here, he would say that he's a man of God. He would stand on that firmly," Courtney Ross, Floyd's fiancée, told KTRK.

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who grew up in Texas not too far from Floyd, called him his twin. Even when Jackson's athletic career soared, he said he kept in touch with Floyd.

"Every city, every team I played on, everywhere I was, we talked. He was excited. Everything I did," Jackson told ABC News. "He was excited because the first thing he said was, 'My twin is doing this. My twin is doing that.' He lived through me. He knew he had the talent, he had the same skills and everything I had. … I just had more opportunity."

In 2007, Floyd was charged with armed robbery and sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal in 2009. Jackson said his friend moved to Minneapolis to start a new life and was working several jobs.

"He'd been through a lot of stuff in his life -- a lot of stuff -- and to make it out after you rehabilitate yourself and you're intelligent enough to know 'I can't go back to the same surroundings because it's going to bring me back to the same spot,'" he said.

PHOTO: A protester holds a sign during a demonstration on May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis.
A protester holds a sign during a demonstration on May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis.
Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP

Floyd's family did not move with him to Minnesota, but he was planning on bringing them to Minneapolis, according to friends and family. Even when he was away from her daughter, Floyd remained committed to her wellbeing, according to Washington.

"We were struggling so he did what he had to do as a man and he had to come here [to Minneapolis] to work. And he said I'm going to come back and get y'all," she said.

Jovanni Thunstrom hired Floyd to work security at his Minneapolis restaurant Conga Latin Bistro and leased him a duplex apartment. Thunstrom told ABC News he was a friendly, hard worker who worked extra hours and was loved by the staff and regulars.

"This hurts. I loved him like a brother," he told ABC News.

Floyd and the rest of the restaurant's staff were out of work since the coronavirus shut down the state's restaurants. Thunstrom said he last saw Floyd a week before his death to collect rent and to talk about the restaurant's reopening plans.

"It broke my heart," he said of Floyd's death.

Washington and other friends called for justice and thanked the support from around the world.

"No matter what anybody thinks, he was good. And this is the proof that he was a good man," Washington said during a press conference Tuesday, looking down at their daughter.

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