‘I just kept on driving.’ Putnam County bus driver honored for 56 years of service

The Putnam Charter County School System named Willie Reid, 82, the Oconee RESA Bus Driver of the Year for his 56 years of committed transportation service. (Photo Courtesy of Putnam Charter County School System)

Credit: Putnam Charter County School System

Credit: Putnam Charter County School System

The Putnam Charter County School System named Willie Reid, 82, the Oconee RESA Bus Driver of the Year for his 56 years of committed transportation service. (Photo Courtesy of Putnam Charter County School System)

Willie Reid began driving for the Putnam County Charter School System in 1968, when school buses had manual transmissions and no air conditioning, he said.

Fifty-six years later, the buses have automatic transmissions and cool air, but one thing hasn’t changed: the 82-year-old’s love for transporting Putnam students to and from school.

“I just kept on driving,” Reid said. “I loved making an impact in a child’s life. The kids I transport on the bus become your family and seeing them grow up and to still remember you makes me feel good and special because you know you have done something right.”

It's with immense pride and joy that we congratulate Mr. Willie Reid for the prestigious recognition as the Oconee RESA...

Posted by Putnam County Charter School System on Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Last Tuesday, Reid was named the Oconee Regional Education Service Agency Bus Driver of the Year. The Putnam school district said in a Facebook post that Reid’s “unwavering commitment to safety, combined with a genuine love for his job, has made him an indispensable asset to our transportation team.”

“Mr. Reid’s passion for working with children shines brightly in everything he does,” the post continued. “His approach to his responsibilities goes beyond the call of duty, making him a beloved figure among students, parents, and colleagues alike.”

Reid said he has only missed five to 10 days in his 56-year career. The Putnam County Charter School said this is the first time the district issued the designation.

Reid and his wife, Fannie, became bus drivers shortly after their marriage in 1967. He said Fannie made the driving years memorable and achievable for him.

“We just loved to do it,” he said. “Driving the school bus was a part-time job to raise our two children and provide for the family.”

Willie Reid, 82, said his 56-year bus driver career began shortly after he married his wife. The part-time job, which intended to provide for Reid’s family, evolved into a meaningful community career that he still loves today, he added. (Photo provided by Willie Reid)

Credit: Willie Reid

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Credit: Willie Reid

The part-time job evolved into a permanent role that would nurture generations of student-family relationships.

Roni Middleton, an Eatonton native and parent, said Reid’s recent honor extends beyond bus driving, praising him for his care and attention when a student who rode his bus was hit by a careless driver about 10 years ago, Middleton told The Telegraph.

“We love Mr. Willie,” Middleton commented under the district’s Facebook post. “Once there was an incident as my children were getting off the bus. I believe his prayers saved the children’s life that day. No serious injuries. Such a good Godly man. Congratulations! Well deserved.”

Middleton said the incident happened on Greensboro Highway.

Reid, who also has been a deacon for about 40 years, said he occasionally loves to bring his Baptist roots into the driver’s seat.

“Sometimes, I sing, or we’ll play (spiritual) songs for the little kids. Some of them love that,” he said. “You got to show love to the kids and pray for them.”

And if students don’t remember Reid for his caring personality, then they would definitely remember his everyday suave attire.

“You got to dress (in a way) where the children respect you,” he said. “You can’t go around wearing anything because you’re working with the children.”

Middleton said, “You never had a problem with bullies on his bus. If someone was disrespectful, (Reid) took care of it.”

When Reid isn’t managing a bus, he said he’s holding down his second job at a local Piggly Wiggly grocery store or serving at his local church.

After briefly reflecting on challenges he overcame as a Black bus driver during the school integration era and witnessing Putnam County families grow up, Reid said he has been considering retirement. But he said he may stick around for the sake of his 8-year-old granddaughter, who rides his bus every day.

“She said, ‘Papa, you got to stay with me a couple of years,’” Reid said.

Lidnsey Rickman, PCCSS spokesperson, said the district intends to invite Reid to an upcoming school board meeting and express its gratitude further.


Credit: The Telegraph

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Credit: The Telegraph


Today’s story comes from our partner The Telegraph in Macon. The Telegraph provides daily coverage of community news, events, and sports in Macon and middle Georgia at macon.com.

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