The yellow taxi is such a New York City staple, and yet, it somehow falls into the background and backdrop as part of the soundtrack of the streets humming along. It's rare that we get a glimpse into the driver's thoughts and experiences, but one cabbie became somewhat of a legend and his life is now being celebrated.
After 68 years in the driver's seat of one of the city's most iconic forms of transportation, Johnnie 'Spider' Footman, died at the age of 94.
“The name Johnnie Footman is legendary among taxicab drivers. The history he’s seen from behind the wheel of a New York City cab is the equal of any great archive,” Commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission David Yassky told the New York Post.
At the urging of his mother, Footman came to New York from Florida in 1937 to escape the segregation of the south, and started driving a taxi in 1945.
“My mother told my uncle, ‘Take him away from here, because he’s going to get killed,’” Footman told the New York Post.
Footman was married for 10 years, and had one son named after him, before separating from his wife in 1968.
Although he stopped picking up fares around some time last year, he still came to the depot every Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday -- the days he would normally come into work.
In an interview with The New York Observer, Jerry Naza, who worked with Footman for over 40 years reflected on the loyalty and strong dynamic personality of his former co-worker.
"He’d drive into the office in his old Chevy Blazer,” Naza said. “Especially if there were any young ladies around. He was like that. One lady told him that if he made it to one hundred they’d get married.”
The longevity of Footman's career, coupled with the substantial changes he witnessed as New York City evolved over time made his stories just as dynamic as the city itself. He's been the subject of several documentaries, and sat for a number of interviews over the years.
Most recently, some of Footman's tales were shared in a documentary released earlier this week called "Drivers Wanted." In one instance, he shares the story of the time a passenger died in the back of his taxi although he thought the man was asleep the whole time.
Watch the video above to listen for yourself.