Hero of the Week: James Daniels

Published 2:25 pm Thursday, February 15, 2024

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The Greenville Advocate is proud to recognize James Daniels as Hero of the Week. Known affectionately as Mr. BaBa (pronounced Bay Bay) by the children he serves, Daniels is a special needs bus driver for Butler County schools. 

Hailing from Crenshaw County, his journey with the school system began in 1989, starting as a special needs classroom aide before transitioning to his current role as a bus driver.

For Daniels, driving the special needs bus became more than just a job — it was a source of solace and purpose during a challenging time in his life. After the loss of his daughter, Daniels found comfort in the routine and the children he transported.

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“I was already driving the regular bus,” Daniels said. “After my daughter died, it was hard and the kids on the bus asked a lot of questions. I didn’t want the kids to think I was mean. I had worked as a special needs aide and had subbed in that class. Also, my grandson is autistic, so I was familiar with their needs and working with them. It was a good fit and driving the special needs bus helped me to cope and calmed me down.”

Despite his plans to retire in two years, Daniels is considering staying longer because of his deep connection to “his kids.” He believes that a positive experience on the bus sets the tone for a child’s day at school.

“I’m the first representative for the school that the kids see,” Daniels explained. “It’s important for them to start the day with a smiling face welcoming them.” 

He strives to make a difference in their lives, ensuring that each child feels loved and valued.

“For some of these kids, it may be the only high-five, the only hug, the only I love you, that they get that day,” Daniels said. “To make sure each one feels loved is my greatest joy. I just love to see them smile.”

Outside of work, Daniels serves as the minister of Hook Street Church of Christ in Fort Deposit. He and his wife Bettye have been married for 37 years, and they have two grown sons and seven grandchildren. 

John Jenkins has known Daniels since 1989 when Daniels, his pastor, performed his baptism. Over the years, their bond has grown stronger, and Jenkins speaks highly of Daniels’s character and willingness to help others. 

“He’s a good man. A family man. He’ll bend over backwards to help someone. I’ve known him for 30 years and he’s always been like that,” Jenkins said.  He’s just an overall good person.”