Mr. Bobby Bowens: Paving the Way for Equality
Mr. Bobby Bowens: Paving the Way for Equality
Posted on 01/25/2019
Beloved bus driver "Mr. Bobby" was the first African American to serve as an Asheville firefighter.Ninth-grader Vishnu Patel speaks in honor of Mr. Bobby Bowens, a former Asheville firefighter and Buncombe bus driver.

By: Benjamin Rickert, Communications Dept.

The inspiring life of Mr. Bobby Bowens was celebrated this morning at Valley Springs Middle School. Mr. Bobby, as he was affectionally called by those who rode bus number 68, was not only a beloved driver of more than a decade, he was also the first African American to ever serve as an Asheville firefighter.

Students, teachers, firefighters, and community members gathered around a newly-installed bronze plaque in honor of Mr. Bobby’s life, character, and influence. Students sang a heartfelt song while standing by bus number 68, and under a nearby tree, they placed hand painted rocks. Firefighters performed a traditional Ringing of the Bell to honor their fallen brother, who passed away on September 28, 2018.

A new plaque is affixed to a boulder adjacent to the Valley Springs Middle bus lot.“I’m glad to see Mr. Bobby get the respect he deserves,” said student Vishnu Patel, who recalled Mr. Bobby’s positivity each morning. “I just wanted everyone to learn about him - and to be just like him.”

Patel raised money for the creation of the plaque for his Eagle Scout project. Patel formerly attended Valley Springs Middle and now attends T.C. Roberson High.

Those who spoke at the ceremony included Mr. Bob Washel, Valley Springs Middle’s Assistant Principal; Mr. Joe Payne, Valley Springs Middle’s Head Custodian; Chief Scott Burnette, Asheville Fire Department; and Vishnu Patel.

The new plaque reads: “Mr. Bobby will be remembered for his kindness, his warm smile, and his humility. For thirteen years, he served Valley Springs Middle School and the Roberson community as a school bus driver. Mr. Bobby was deeply loved by the students, staff and parents of the schools. Most notably, Mr. Bobby was the first African American firefighter for the city of Asheville, thereby paving the way for many who have since followed.

View our full photo gallery on Facebook.
Learn more about Mr. Bobby via WLOS and the Asheville Citizen-Times.
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