Maurice Thurgood, a Davis County school bus driver for more than 41 years, has earned more than the affection of students and respect of parents and his colleagues. He was recently named as the "No. 1 Male Bus Driver of the Year" by Albuquerque's Pioneer News.

Thurgood, 61, came in just ahead of two bus drivers in New York for the prestigious annual award in a program that attracted 66 nominations nationwide."I don't mind driving," Thurgood said. "I get along good with the kids, but after 41 years, if you didn't get along you wouldn't still be here."

Thurgood usually drives three round-trip routes a day in Davis County. He takes West Point students to Clearfield High, delivers children to West Point Elementary and also has a kindergarten route.

In the summer, Thurgood takes numerous children from West Point to the Clearfield swimming pool for lessons.

When Thurgood started his bus driving back on Feb. 5, 1950, he was taking all the students from West Point to Kaysville's Davis High - then the only high school in the area - in a gasoline-fueled bus. Today his modern bus is a 1986 model that carries the number 333, has room for 84 passengers and is diesel-powered. His is one of seven school buses serving West Point alone.

Through his more than four decades of driving, Thurgood has also managed to stay accident-free. His recognition as bus driver of the year came after he finished in the top 10 for the bus award in 1989.

"You've got to be firm but friendly with the kids," Thurgood said, explaining his philosophy of maintaining control on the bus. "You can't take any guff."

A lifelong resident of West Point, Thurgood has also been a farmer all his adult life. He and his wife, Carol, have three daughters, all married and living away from home.