By Jeff Moreland
Murray Walker rolled out of bed Tuesday morning and climbed behind the steering wheel of a bus for the first day of school. It’s nothing new for Walker, who at age 70, started his 44th year as a bus driver Tuesday.
Driving a bus almost runs in his veins. His father, Murray Walker Sr., operated a bus in Washington County when Walker was younger, and he followed in his father’s tracks. Walker Sr. owned five buses of his own, contracting with the county. He was also bus supervisor for the county later, and sold his buses to the county.
“I started driving in 1965 when I was teaching at Willisburg,” Walker said. He began teaching in 1961.
Following his teaching career, when he retired in 1976, Walker took a position with the county to run its new emergency medical services. He had a new job, but that didn’t stop him from driving a school bus.
“I stayed with them (EMS) for 18 years, and I still drove the bus all along.”
When he started, Walker spent about two hours each day on the route. It would be logical to think he would reduce his driving a bit over the years, but instead, it has increased. After taking children to their schools in the morning, Walker takes a short break, then transports students from Washington County High School to Marion County’s vocational school.
“I take them over to Marion County, sit there and wait for them, then come back here around 10 a.m.,” he said.
Walker is proud to say he has never had an accident in his 44-year career as a bus driver, but he added that he also feels lucky to be able to make that statement. He attributes much of his joy as a driver coming from the children he transports.
“I’ve got a really good bunch of kids,” he said. “A lot of these kids’ parents rode with me, and they’re familiar with me.”
James “Pogo” Mann, director of transportation for Washington County Schools, said Walker is a pleasure to work with at the bus garage.
“He’s a fine young man. I tease him all the time about being here for 100 years, but he’s a good guy to work with, and if I need something extra, he’s always there to help. He’s real knowledgeable about electronics, and if the guys in the garage need something, he helps them out if he can. He’s a pleasure to have around,” Mann said.
It’s not just a bus, but almost anything with an engine gets Walker’s interest. He enjoys riding his motorcycle, and he still holds a commercial pilot’s license. He is licensed to fly an air taxi, which will transport about six passengers, according to Walker.
At age 70, a lot of people are ready to enjoy their retirement and take it easy. Walker isn’t one of them. He plans to continue driving his bus as long as his health allows.
“If I wasn’t driving the bus, I’d probably be sitting at McDonald’s or Hardee’s in the morning, and I just don’t want to do that,” he said. “I’ve told some of them I’m gonna shoot for 50 years, so I’ll keep going as long as I can.”