Buddy Brawley started training as a truck driver at an early age.
At just 8 years old he was driving a tractor with precision around his family’s farm and going on trips with his father who drove a dairy truck. Truck driving was in his blood.
Brawley was born at Hoots Hospital in Yadkinville and raised in the Courtney area of Yadkin County. He and his parents and two brothers managed the family farm with dairy cows, chickens, pigs and tobacco.
Brawley said that once he had his first taste of driving the tractor he was never the same.
“I loved it,” Brawley said. “Of course today people would freak out if you let an eight year old on a tractor, but I thought it was play, not work.”
Brawley said that his father became an ordained minister in 1969, and he and his brothers grew up in the church.
“I think that helped in my upbringing,” Brawley said. “I had a lot of faith in God, and I still do.”
Brawley attended Courtney Elementary and Forbush High School. He said that excelled in his carpentry and construction classes so after graduation he decided that would be the best career path for him. It only took him three months to realize that he was wrong.
He returned to the family farm for the summer to ponder on his next career choice and ended up landing a job at a company that built air compressors in Mocksville. His farming background and the truck driving knowledge he picked up watching his father made him a valuable asset at the company.
“While I was at that company I always ended up being the go-to person for when the tow tractor out of work because of my experience driving a tractor on the farm,” Brawley said.
After several years in Mocksville Brawley felt the urge to move on once more, and he returned to his family farm to contemplate his next move. He finally decided to go where his heart had been leading him for so many years and earned his chauffeurs license.
He quickly took a job driving a dairy truck and following in the footsteps of his father.
“It didn’t pay a lot of money, but it gave me the opportunity to do something that I wanted to do,” Brawley said.
After four years on the road, Brawley decided it was time to settle down and he married his wife and rock of 30 years, Robin.
“I’m still married to my first wife,” Brawley said. “I like to say that and some people ask if I’m working on number two but I tell them, ‘no, I just like people to know I am still married to my first wife’.”
Brawley said that he has to attribute his success in his career and his happiness in life to his wife. As a stay at home mom she managed the children, their household and took care of his mother who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for nine years before passing.
“It took a lot of patience and I have to give my wife a lot of credit,” Brawley said.
The couple had a son and a daughter, and while Robin stayed at home with the kids, Brawley set back out on the road driving a milk tanker for eight years and then hauling flour to bakeries.
In 1994 an opportunity presented itself that Brawley said he had been waiting for 13 years. Brawley said that he had always seen the Unifi trucks driving through the streets of Yadkinville and yearned to one day drive for the company himself. He tried many times, but it never seemed to work out.
Brawley had a friend who worked dispatch for the company and he gave him the heads up that driving positions were coming available. Brawley didn’t get his hopes up but one evening his phone rang and he was interviewing for his dream job the next afternoon.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and I had a good friend to help me get a job,” Brawley said. “I’ve been there ever since.”
As a loyal Unifi employee Brawley has earned a driver of the year award from the National Safety Council, he was presented the Joseph M. Kaplan Award and he was named best driver of the year regionally.
He took home the national driver of the year award from Truck Renting and Leasing Association in 2010 and was nominated as driver of the year by the North Carolina Trucking Association in 2007. He’s also won Unifi’s truck driving championship, or “roadeo”, six times.
Over the course of his career, Brawley has been on the road for 34 years and he’s driven 3 million miles without a single accident; an amazing feat that he credits to God.
“I don’t believe in luck,” Brawley said. “God was with me the whole time. Even if I was that good not to hit somebody, nobody has ever hit me either. I give God the credit for that.”
When he’s not safely driving the highways for Unifi Brawley said that he enjoys horseback riding with his wife.
“It’s a really good thing because you can ride along and talk,” Brawley said. “It relaxes me.”
Brawley is also musically inclined. He plays bass guitar and fiddle. He joined his church’s praise band and enjoys the opportunity to learn and play worship songs. His son even took up drums and joined the group too.
“It thrilled me because we got to play music together in the same group and I didn’t ever think that would happen,” Brawley said.
Brawley said that while he loves his career the most important thing in life is his family. His daughter has given him two grandchildren and he says he spends much of his time watching them grow.
“I enjoy spending time with my grandkids,” Brawley said. “They can wear me out in one day but I love spending that time with them. Family is everything and it’s nice to have a family to come home to.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.