Elizabeth R. Duff, the first woman who drives a Nashville city bus, dies at 72

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    Grew up in Nashville, separated in Elizabeth in the 1950s R. Duff once tried to sit in front of a public city bus, where a sign warned that seats were for whites only. His mother quickly pulled him backwards.

    “She It was not liked when people told her she could not do certain things, ”said Mrs. Duff’s daughter, Virpy E. Carter said. “She Probably thought, ‘One day, I’m going to sit in front of the bus and I’m going to drive that bus.’

    And so he did. Mrs. Duff became the first female bus driver in Nashville in 1974, her union said, to navigate the capital’s streets for more than three decades. Described by other drivers as calm, calm and rubbish, Mrs Duff was strict with abused riders but was known to arrive in her own purse to help cover fares.

    Being in the front lines of breaking gender and color barriers, Mrs Duff also endured sexism and racism, with people questioning a woman’s ability to drive and sometimes directing epithets from the seats behind her.

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    Credit …Jet Phillip / Tennessee

    His son Seneca Duff said, “It was a completely male-dominated area, where you weren’t in America.” “It would be nice to see a woman driving a bus, if not better – some people were jealous, some people were shocked, some people were really proud. She Got from both sides. “

    Mrs. Duff died on February 13 at a hospital in Nashville. The reason for this was COVID-19, his family said.

    Elizabeth Ray was born on January 15, 1949 in Nashville. His father, Joseph Ray, worked in a grain mill. His mother, Lizzie Mae (Gooch) Ray, was a housewife. She There were three half-brothers and sisters.

    While attending Cameron High School in the early 1960s, she began dating a halfback on a football team named Harry Duff. They were married in 1965 and had three children: Mrs. Carter, Seneca and Harry Duff Jr.

    Mrs. Duff was fond of driving, according to her husband, who often took a passenger seat on family walks. She The early 1970s was a chaos for a Chevrolet dealer in Nashville. In 1974, a decade after appointing the first black men to operate city buses, he heard that the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority was opening jobs for women. Mrs Duff made the news that year when she was hired.

    “My grandmother called out for us, asked us to come in the house because our mom was on TV,” her daughter recalled. “We were very excited. At that time, I do not think we know what was happening, as it happened.

    Sharing a locker room with men (a women’s bathroom was added), Mrs Duff “mixed up just like everyone else”, Thomas J., a former driver. Caruthers Sr. said.She Was just one of the boys. “(Mr. Caruthers, who was hired in 1966, was one of the first black bus drivers in Nashville.)

    Mrs. Duff created a kind of Duff family street dynasty: she inspired all three of her children to enter the profession. Seneca Duff followed in her footsteps and for a time, Mrs. Carter drove a school bus and Harry Jr. operated a tractor-trailer.

    Along with her children, she is survived by her husband, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandfathers.

    Mrs. Duff retired in 2007 and became the local secretary of her union’s retiree chapter, local 1235 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

    After being named Urban Driver of the Year by the Tennessee Public Transportation Association in 2004, she described what attracted her to driving. “I like to hear the sound of it,” he told The Tensian. “When you actually drive, you feel the vehicle. You listen to the motor. You feel the road. “

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