As a bus driver, Adam Williams holds one of the most important jobs at Woodward Academy. “The object is to get students from point A to point B safely,” he says.
Mr. Williams has been transporting students to school safely for 24 years. Over those years, he has grown to know many, many students. When he speaks of them, he sounds like a parent or a grandparent.
“I’ve got some kids who ride my bus who started in the Primary School and are now 10th graders,” he said. “They grow up, and they want you to treat them differently. But, if you find out what they like, they’ll talk about what they like all the time.”
An Atlanta native, Mr. Williams graduated from Archer High, alma mater of Gladys Knight, who was near his own age and lived in his neighborhood. In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for service in the Vietnam War. He re-enlisted for a year to attend warrant officer school.
Returning home to Atlanta, he worked for Southern Bell. Later, he moved on to a position with a security company, where he was responsible for staffing security at buildings all around the city. When he started at Woodward, he was still working security and viewed the bus driver job as a way to earn extra cash. “When I came here, this was a part-time job. It was something for me to do to make money to keep up my habits,” he said. “I like to play a little golf.”
As routes were added over time, the job became full-time. These days, Mr. Williams leaves his home every day at 5 a.m. for the morning route, picking up students in East Cobb County and getting them to school on time at Main Campus. He returns home for a mid-day rest before running two roundtrip routes back to East Cobb in the afternoon— an early route right after school releases at 3:25 p.m. and the late bus route, which leaves campus at 6 p.m. for the many students who are involved in after-school activities.
On May 21, 2015, Mr. Williams was presented with the President’s Award of Excellence for his devotion to the school and its students. It’s a well-deserved honor. Along with all of the other drivers, Mr. Williams passed with flying colors when his devotion was put to the test in January 2014 when a snowstorm paralyzed the city, causing chaos on roads and stranding many drivers overnight.
Mr. Williams recalls driving on I-285 approaching the Paces Ferry Road/ Vinings exit. “Trucks were skidding,” he said. “A three-minute ride became an hour.” At a major Cobb County intersection, he spent four hours with his foot on the brake, unable to move forward because of the icy road. Good Samaritans pushed vehicles through the intersection, and eventually he was able to move the bus through to get as close as possible to his regular stop.
More than 20 students were on the bus that day, and older students were calming and caring for younger students. All of them were reunited with their parents by 11:30 p.m., with some parents walking to the bus to collect their children. Although parents offered a bed for the night, Mr. Williams, like several other Woodward drivers, spent the night on his bus.
It was an experience that prompted many parents to write to President Stuart Gulley, praising the care that drivers took with their children in a frightening situation. President Gulley chose to recognize all of the drivers with a $1,000 bonus check that month.
It is just one example, Mr. Williams said, of the way Woodward has been good to him over the years. Most importantly, he values the relationships he has built with students. “I’ve had the same route since 1994. Some of the kids that rode my bus are grown-ups now with their own kids, and they have come back to see me. Some of them have even put their own kids on the bus,” he said. “I’ve gotten enjoyment out of it. A lot of times in life, people end up doing things that they didn’t ever expect to do. I never expected to do this, but I’ve truly enjoyed it. We’ve got some really good kids, and I am able to get to know them. It keeps you interested.”