James E. Hawkins
June 22, 1960 - June 5, 2010

James Hawkins, eastern transportation consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, died Saturday, June 5 following a brave battle with cancer. James worked in school transportation for over 31 years and was known for his desire to make sure things are done the right way to ensure the safest buses possible for school children in eastern North Carolina and beyond.

James Hawkins began his career in pupil transportation as an apprentice mechanic and fuel truck operator at the Craven County school bus garage in January, 1979. After a few months he was promoted to a Mechanic I, responsible for a service route of 32 buses. It was during this time that James learned what makes school buses tick and he gained a level of knowledge and expertise achieved by few. He moved on to a Mechanic II position, followed shortly by a promotion to Shop Foreman.


James shows DPI transportation section chief Derek Graham the database he developed for use in Craven County.





Pictured at right, Becton Broughton (Craven County director), James, Derek, Albert Cannon (cost clerk).


In September, 1999, James was named as transportation director for Jones County where he was responsible for all mechanical and administrative functions of the department. He worked to implement changes to provide a more efficient and safe operation. James was among the first – if not the first – to pioneer the use of GPS in school bus applications in North Carolina using a Shadow Tracker that would record bus routes that could then be downloaded and overlaid on a digital map.

In January, 2003, James Hawkins was named the eastern regional transportation consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction with responsibility for 39 counties in eastern North Carolina. Part of his duties included inspecting school buses. If he found something wrong with a school bus, you can be sure that it was reported – but he would use each incident as a teaching opportunity, trying to make sure that the responsible technician knew what needed to be done to make sure each bus was put in safe operating condition. Pictured left with Terry Barlow (Wilkes County), James handled the “under the bus” portion of the annual School Bus Inspection Competition – another teaching opportunity for LEA personnel.

James was an active participant in the school bus spec committee and was a strong voice advocating for bus garage personnel when issues arose with school bus vendors, component manufacturers, etc.
At left he is pictured making a case to a Freightliner engineer during a pilot inspection.




Usually soft-spoken, James would always fight for the LEAs, advocating for the impact of potential problems on garage personnel and overall performance of the school bus. James is pictured at right with DPI and P&C staff following a pilot chassis inspection


James was also chair of the Preventive Maintenance Manual committee, working with LEA representatives from across the state, to make sure that the state’s maintenance procedures were up to date.

James will be greatly missed by his friends and co-workers at DPI. He was part of the team that, in August 2007, received the first DPI Team Excellence award. The award  was presented to Transportation Services team members Charles Ball, Steve Beachum, Kevin Harrison, James Hawkins, Randy Henson, Jean Strickland and Craig Warren following the successful procurement and delivery of 1360 new replacement school buses prior to the start of school.


He is pictured at right with fellow field consultants Charles Ball and Randy Henson - attending the NAPT Conference in Myrtle Beach (Nov, 2008).



James and his wife Johnnie lived in his home town of Cove City, NC in Craven County. He was quite proud of his two daughters. Jennifer is a student at East Carolina University. His daughter Jessica is a 2010 graduate of West Craven High School.