North Carolina Celebrates 100 Years of Motorized School Transportation


On Tuesday, September 5 the state of North Carolina celebrated a milestone – 100 years since the first motorized school bus service was initiated in the state.


Events were co-sponsored by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), and the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

To contrast the progress, an enlargement of the 1917 bus was displayed along with Iredell-Statesville Schools’ 1931 “Betsy” and a new 2018 bus from Carteret County (photo above).


At the site of the state historical marker in Oriental, North Carolina, GHSP director Mark Ezzell took the opportunity to announce that Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed September as Safe to School Month. He displayed the proclamation and reminded the public that “It is our duty to ensure that we are doing everything we can to practice safe driving on our roadways to prevent injury and death to our state’s greatest resource – our children.




According to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, on “September 5, 1917, the Pamlico County Schools inaugurated the first motorized school bus service in North Carolina.

Pamlico, among the most rural counties in the state, sought to make transportation for students faster and easier. Before the widespread use of automobiles, horse-drawn wagons were used to transport students to school, and the state didn’t provide that student transportation could come at public expense until 1911.

Pamlico County’s first bus was purchased from the Corbitt Company of Henderson and cost $1,379. The bus could seat 30 passengers and was used to transport students in and around Oriental. The introduction of a motorized bus to deliver students from outlying areas to the schoolhouse was considered a logistical triumph, and made it possible for school districts to move from scattered networks of one-room schoolhouses to modern, centralized schools with more professional staff.

To publicize his innovation, Pamlico’s superintendent drove the bus to Raleigh and gave then Gov. Thomas Bickett and other politicians a ride around the city. The success of Pamlico’s first school bus was quickly followed by similar purchases in other rural counties in the eastern part of the state.”


Early school buses manufactured by the Corbitt Truck Company in Henderson. Image from the State Archives.


September 5, 2017 – 10:00 AM
Oriental, North Carolina


GHSP director Ezzell turned the podium over to DPI’s Kevin Harrison, who spoke of the advancements in school bus safety, noting that statistics show that a student is 70 times safer riding on a school bus than traveling in a car.

DMV supervisor James Horton commended the state’s school bus drivers and highlighted the training that each driver must complete before being entrusted with a school bus load of children.

Pamlico County Superintendent Lisa Jackson noted the innovation of the Pamlico County school system 100 years ago, explaining that the school system continues to look for innovation in all facets of public education.  

September 5, 2017 – 3:00 PM
Raleigh, NC

Re-creating the journey of 1917 Pamlico County Superintendent from Oriental to Raleigh, the 2018 Bus and “Betsy” (via NCDOT roll-back) were driven to the grounds of the North Carolina General Assembly for a companion even that same afternoon. 

GHSP director Ezzell was joined by State Superintendent Mark Johnson, NC State Highway Patrol Colonel Glenn McNeill, DMV’s Paul Dlouhy, and Parent Rachel Findley   Superintendent Johnson took the opportunity to pose in the 1931 school bus following the formal ceremony

A highlight of the press conference were the words of Rachel Findley, the parent of a 2nd grader in Wake County Schools.

My daughter is a 2nd grade student in Wake County Public Schools at Reedy Creek Elementary school and has ridden our neighborhood school bus since her first day of kindergarten.
We chose for our daughter to ride the school bus because we know it's safer than driving her to school, it's more convenient than driving her to school which saves our family time and money, and it benefits our community by decreasing the amount of traffic on the roads.

But perhaps most importantly, our daughter enjoys riding the bus, it has provided her a sense of independence, while she is still under the watchful eyes of trained professional drivers…
She spends time on the bus socializing with her friends and working on her homework and we know she'll arrive safely at school on time and safely back to our house in the afternoon.  


As parents, we do our best to make the trip as smooth and safe as possible, some of the things we do include:

  • Arriving to the pick-up point at least a few minutes early so there’s less rushing around
  • Talking to our daughter about the importance of:
    • listening to the bus driver’s instructions
    • staying seated and having proper behavior on the bus
    • asking the bus driver if she needs help with something
    • looking both ways before crossing the street and always pay attention near roads

Riding the school bus has been one of the easiest decisions we've made and our son is excited to be able to join her in another year….”

Media Coverage

School Bus Fleet Magazine Coverage




Additional photos from the September 5 events are shown below and at FlickrHere’s to another 100 years!