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Hall of Fame

Wilbur Malvia Harris
August 3, 1905-March 8, 1983

Malvia Harris served as the first presiding president of the North Carolina Pupil Transportation Association, serving from October 11, 1950 to November 14, 1952.

Malvia Harris started his career in school bus transportation in 1925 as a school bus driver in Beaufort County. Those years drivers were paid $4.00 a month and sometimes the wage decreased to $2.00 during the depression.

As reported in an article in the Washington Daily News, Harris even courted on a school bus when he was a young driver on the Pantego route. He began to like a special girl on his route and he would save a space for her near the driver’s seat so he could talk to her while he drove. He married the girl in 1929.

In those days most of the buses were Model T Fords. They were less than five feet wide and could carry only 17 students including the driver. There were no glass windows on the sides of the vehicle and the openings were covered with canvass, although double strength glass was used on the windshield, door and rear.

On cold mornings, a team of horses had to pull the vehicle for the engine to turn over. Radiators had to be drained of water by the driver every night, and refilled in the mornings. The windshield wiper had to be hand cranked as well as the engine because electric starters had not been perfected in 1925.

In 1931, Malvia Harris was appointed Supervisor of Beaufort County Schools Bus Transportation. At that time, there was no Bus Garage and all mechanical work had to be performed “outdoors in the cold and rain.”

Malvia Harris was instrumental in assisting a State Representative from Washington, NC to introduce a bill in the N.C. Legislature that all buses purchased after July 1, 1947, be equipped with heaters and crossed seating arrangements. Other improvements included

stop signals were adopted in 1940 and blinking stop lights were added to buses front and rear in 1946. In 1954, under Harris leadership, Bill Waters, (mechanic) received permission from the N.C. State Board of Education to experiment with the design of buses. After several design improvements, his final design received national attention and fifty buses were built from the design. It was also the first school bus to have and automatic transmission with increased passenger capacity

After serving faithfully for Beaufort County Schools for forty-one years, Malvia Harris retired in 1972.

Thank you, Malvia for your insight and a job well done.