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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.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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