GRTC Celebrates Black History Month 2021: Essential Workers Honored

GRTC Celebrates Black History Month
Essential workers honored.

RICHMOND, Va. (January 29, 2021) – Each year in recognition of Black History Month, GRTC celebrates the accomplishments and achievements of local African Americans from Virginia.  Over the years GRTC has celebrated African Americans who have excelled in the fields of entertainment, athletics, and transportation to name a few.  This year GRTC is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of essential workers. 

With their contributions on the front lines and their roles elevated in public awareness, the importance of essential workers has never been more evident than during the ongoing pandemic. This year’s honorees highlight the contributions of essential workers, past and present, in education, healthcare, public service, and public transportation. Their admirable work ensured that students received an education, provided on-going treatment of health concerns, continued operation of critical public services, and transported people to their jobs.  As a testament to their work still relevant today, please join us in celebrating Rosa D. Bowser, Dr. Robert Walter “Whirlwind” Johnson, Elvin Russell Cosby, and Jennie Bullock.

Rosa D BowserRosa D. Bowser – Born in Amelia County in 1855, Bowser moved to Richmond, Virginia with her parents at the age of ten.  She began her career in education by teaching Sunday School at First African Baptist Church, which was then located on Broad St. It was while teaching Sunday School that Bowser’s father encouraged her educational advancement and enrolled her in Richmond Public Schools.  She was then selected to enter the teacher training program and she eventually became a teacher.  Bowser taught at Navy Hill School for a year until she moved to the Baker School where she was a teacher’s supervisor.  Throughout her career as an educator, Bowser would lead reforms in education, fighting for teacher salary increases, and improving housing and education for at-risk children.  In 1931, the Rosa D. Bowser Richmond Public Library Branch opened, named in her honor.  Today that site is the current location of the Black History and Culture Center of Virginia.  Content Courtesy of Encyclopedia of Virginia

Elvin R CosbyElvin R. Cosby – Elvin R. Cosby began his career in Henrico County’s Department of Public Works in 1946.  During his tenure at the Department of Public Works (which is responsible for maintenance of roads, drainage system, transit service and erosion control) Cosby was a sterling example of a public servant. Throughout his tenure at the Department of Public Works, Cosby rose through many levels of leadership.  After joining Henrico County as a laborer, Cosby was promoted to a truck driver.  He then became an equipment operator, followed by a labor foreman until finally he was promoted to a maintenance supervisor. 

Throughout his career Cosby mentored African American co-workers. His dedication to his job was an inspiration to many.  In honor and recognition of his service, Henrico County established the Elvin R. Cosby Award in 2015.  This award recognizes long-serving employees in Henrico County.  Three years later, a road between Prince Henry Dr. and Dixon Powers Dr. was unveiled as Elvin Cosby Way in honor of his 72nd anniversary.  In 2019, after 73 years of service, Elvin Cosby retired from the Department of Public Works in Henrico County.   Content sourced from Henrico County News

Dr. Robert Walter JohnsonDr. Robert Walter “Whirlwind” Johnson – Dr. Robert Walter “Whirlwind” Johnson, commonly known as Dr. J, was a trailblazer.  Born in Virginia and raised in North Carolina, Dr. J. would earn his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and eventually pursued a medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN.  Dr. J. was recruited to work at Lynchburg General Hospital, where he would become the first African American doctor to have practice rights. 

Dr. J’s impact went well beyond medicine.  Even though he was a medical doctor by trade, Dr. J was also a teacher to many.  For more than two decades, Dr. J would train and coach young African American athletes on how to play tennis.  He worked with tennis greats, including Arthur Ashe as well as Althea Gibson.  Dr. J’s legacy lives on today, not only in medicine, but tennis too.  Picture sourced from the Whirlwind Johnson Foundation

Jennie BullockJennie Bullock – Unbeknownst to her, Jennie Bullock would make history when she joined GRTC in 1978.  Initially hired as an Operator, in 1980 Bullock was promoted to a Transportation Supervisor.  In her role as a Transportation Supervisor, Jennie became the first female in two areas—the first female Transportation Supervisor and the first African American female in that role. Despite shattering two glass ceilings, Bullock’s decision to become a Transportation Supervisor was not an easy one.  During her initial two years at GRTC, Bullock embraced her role as an Operator, enjoying all facets of the job including driving and most importantly interacting with her riders.  What originally began as a temporary job quickly turned into a career that lasted more than 26 years.  During her tenure as a Transportation Supervisor, Jennie Bullock was known for her unwavering commitment to fairness.  Her motto was “You know what you are supposed to do [as an Operator] and I know what I am supposed to do [as a Transportation Supervisor].”  Jennie Bullock retired in 2004, and her legacy lives on as other female Transportation Supervisors continue to work at GRTC today. 

GRTC welcomes submissions now for next year’s local Black History Month honorees; names will be saved for future consideration. Male and female, living and deceased, nominations are accepted. Please email nominations, including a biography, photo, and any contact information, to

GRTC is a public service corporation providing mobility services in the Greater Richmond area. GRTC’s current operational budget of $60.3M primarily funds daily mobility operations and vehicle maintenance. GRTC provides more than 9.25 million trips annually.

For more information, contact: CARRIE ROSE PACE – (804) 516-4148 -