NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Elizabeth Duff made history in Nashville by becoming the city’s first female bus operator and first African American female bus operator. Now, her legacy is being honored at WeGo’s Central Transit Station downtown.
“She came at a time where there weren’t any women drivers,” said Nashville Metro Transit Authority (MTA) Board Chair Gail Williams. “She came at a time when there weren’t any Black women drivers.”
In 1974, Elizabeth broke down those walls.
“She wanted to drive a bus, and she wanted to drive a big rig,” recalled Elizabeth’s husband, Harry Duff Sr. “That was one of her dreams.”
For more than 30 years, Elizabeth drove those buses with pride for Nashville MTA, overcoming many obstacles along the way.
“She drove at a time when there wasn’t any restrooms for women drivers,” added Harry.
Elizabeth passed away from COVID-19 complications in 2021. However, her son, Seneca Duff, followed in her footsteps, spending the last 18 years as a WeGo bus operator.
“My mom didn’t know about it at the time,” Seneca recalled. “It was a surprise. She was really excited that I got the job to work here.”
Along his route, Seneca has noticed the changes happening to the Central Transit Station.
“I watched them put up a letter here, a letter there, a letter here,” Seneca said. “I’m like, ‘They really putting it up,’ so it’s great.”
Elizabeth’s legacy is now cemented into the downtown station after the Metro Council approved the name change back in July 2022.
While Elizabeth’s family knows how special she is, they’re happy they can now share that with others as they ride past the Elizabeth Duff Transit Center.
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“You got somebody that’s in your family that’s got a building named after them, that’s something that everybody don’t get a chance to do or see,” Harry said.
WeGo is also working on creating historical displays detailing Elizabeth’s service with Nashville MTA, which will be housed inside the transit center.
You can learn more about Elizabeth’s accomplishments in News 2’s 2022 interview with her husband.