The 13-year-old boy who stole a bus to help his family

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Jacob Ryan

When his mother became ill, Robert “RG” Williams was desperate to help get his family out of poverty. He dreamed of becoming a bus driver – to him, the bus represented a way out of the “hood”. The only problem, as he explains here, was that he was still a child.

I was eight years old when I started taking the bus to school. We really depended on public transport. My dad left when I was a young boy, so my mum took care of me and my nine older brothers and sisters. She did laundry and worked as a cook but her health was failing, so she struggled. We had to pull our weight from a young age, and I was always thinking of ways I could help my family.

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Diane Deaton Street

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“Out of the bus window I would see alcoholics buying liquor for their day ahead”

Out of the bus window I would see drug addicts and homeless people, alcoholics buying liquor and smokes for their day ahead – but what I looked forward to every day was talking to the bus driver. Her name was Louise Garnett and she was a very motherly type. We came from the same community in the West End of Louisville, Kentucky, and she knew my family.

I would sit in the front, near her, and she’d say: “Hey, have you eaten today? How are your grades? Did you do your homework?” At that time I was trying to get into the arts and had a gift for writing and she knew about that.

I’d go the library and study Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King. I was quite ahead of my years and saw education as a way out. I spoke to Ms Louise about all of those feelings in that 30-minute bus ride to school and I looked forward to it every day.

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RG Williams

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RG Williams as a child – he’s the youngest of 10 children

Before meeting Ms Louise I was always thinking about what I could do for a living. In my neighbourhood there were some police officers and firefighters but not a lot of them looked like me, none of them were of colour – and while I personally felt that what they were doing was admirable and honourable, they didn’t have a great reputation in my community.

I didn’t connect with teachers or police officers the way I did with Ms Louise, she came from where I came from and she was doing something that was honourable. I thought this could be the way to help my family.

I first had the idea when I was 11 years old and after two years of watching Ms Louise and reading and researching, I finally believed that I could do it.

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