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First county African-American female bus driver retiring

The first African-American female bus driver in Halifax County, octogenarian Marie Hendricks, will retire at the close of the 2011-12 school year after 51-years of driving children to and from school.

 “It was time,” Hendricks said.

 Born and raised in the Meadville/Millstone community in a family of farmers, Hendricks said she always knew she wanted to drive a school bus.

“I would see the buses going by, and I said to myself, I could do that. I could try a bus. I want to drive,” Hendricks said.

 It was then she set out to make her dream become a reality. 

In 1961 she paid a visit to then School Superintendent Udy C. Wood.

“I went and talked to Mr. Wood, and he decided to give me a chance,” Hendricks said.

In the beginning she drove the bus for Mary Bethune High School and between bus hours worked at Mr. Wood’s house. 

When the schools integrated, Hendricks said she began busing high school students from Rosa Elementary to Halifax County Senior High (now Halifax County Middle School).

In between bus hours she worked in the cafeteria serving the food.

“I enjoyed that because I got to meet with the students,” Hendricks said.

In her later years, Hendricks began driving a bus for Meadville Elementary School, the last school she would serve.

“There have been three principals since I started at Meadville,” Hendricks said.

Having a passion for driving the school bus, she claims never a day would go by she didn’t want to drive the bus.

 Her students always respected her, and she said she never had a student curse her to her face.

“I always asked and demanded that the students remember they were riding a school bus and not outside on a playground,” Hendricks said. “Some said I say that I ran or tried to run a tight ship.”

 A typical bus driving morning for Hendricks starts at 5 a.m.

“I wake up with no alarm clock, and I have never been late unless the bus wouldn’t start. I didn’t want my kids waiting on me,” Hendricks said. 

Punctuality has always been important to Hendricks.

“I always wanted to be at each stop on time. Even my own children would get left, if they were not ready on time,” Hendricks said.

To Hendricks safety is the most important factor of driving the bus. She often told her daughters she was hauling “precious cargo.”

 Hendricks admits she will miss the children the most when she retires. When she sees children she has driven in the past all grown up, she describes the feeling as “a pure joy.”

 She is happy to say she drove a set of twins who ended up working as deputies for the county sheriff’s office.

 Hendricks said all of her fellow passengers eventually make their way back and speak to her.

She thanks her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing and keeping her all the years.

“Down through the years God has been good to me. He saw things I wasn’t able to see, and he kept it in the road,” Hendricks said.

After retiring, Hendricks said she plans to do some traveling only by train and will do more planting in my garden.

Hendricks has not been the only bus driver in her family; her late husband and two daughters drove buses as well, one who still drives a bus for Sinai Elementary.   

At one time, Hendricks said he yard was packed with three school buses.