School bus joins funeral procession for long-serving driver


File photo of school bus (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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CHURCH HILL, Tenn. (AP) — A weekend funeral procession for a Tennessee man who drove a school bus for more than 57 years included the last bus he drove before retiring — Hawkins County Schools bus no. 89.

Robert Brooks, who was also a farmer, started driving for the county schools in 1958 after another driver quit and a school board member approached him about the job, the Kingsport Times News reports.

In 2010, with 52 consecutive years of driving under his belt, he beat the record for the longest-serving bus driver in the Volunteer State. When Brooks hit 56 years of service in 2014, he was inducted into the Tennessee School Bus Driver Hall of Fame.

Brooks died Christmas Day in his home at the age of 84.

Bus no. 89 was the last one Brooks drove before retiring in 2016. It is no longer in regular service but still operates occasionally when other buses are being repaired, Hawkins County school bus driver Darrell Lawson said.

Lawson drove Brooks’ family to the cemetery on the no. 89 bus on Saturday. Mourners, including former students whom Brooks drove over the years, lined the route of the unusual funeral procession before joining the family at the cemetery.

“He would have been so proud,” Brooks’ widow, Janice Brooks, said through tears as she prepared to board the bus.

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