Detroit’s walking man says ‘thanks’

James Robertson, the Detroit man whose story of walking 21 miles a day for work and never missing a day of toil in the last 10 years prompted thousands of people to pitch in to give him a hand, has released a video via the Detroit Free Press with a pretty simple message.

He met the man who started the online fundraiser.

“I gotta say, this is Detroit, this is how people are in Detroit. They say Los Angeles is the city of angels. That’s wrong. Detroit is the real city of angels,” Robertson said.

He’s not taking the $282,000 that people have donated for granted.

“I have to be careful how I act about this — the same God who brings you all these blessings can take them away, but hopefully I’m ready for what happens,” Robertson said.

This week’s interviews and meeting were arranged by banker Blake Pollock, 47, of Rochester, who brought Robertson’s story to the Free Press after seeing the lonely commuter walking in every sort of weather for hours through areas of Troy and Rochester Hills.

“I’ve never met anyone like James, never dreamed anyone would be walking like this to keep his job,” Pollock said. Because their commuting routes overlap in Oakland County, the UBS Bank vice president has picked up Robertson dozens of times this winter, ferrying the older man to the job at a plastic molding plant that is 23 miles from Robertson’s home.

Now, Pollock is assembling a board of advisers to help Robertson manage the rapidly mounting donations earmarked for Robertson, including offers of new and used cars, in response to the story that detailed Robertson’s long days of getting to work on buses and on foot.

“I told him there are going to be some people who will help you with this, and he’s not anxious about, ‘Hey, I want my money.’ He sees the need to manage this. I also think we owe it to all of the people who contributed — the transparency, some sort of accounting,” Pollock said. On Tuesday, Purtan volunteered while recording his podcast to be one of the advisers.

“Let’s all look out for one another,” Robertson suggested.

Here’s the podcast with Robertson.

  • Erik Petersen

    Good.

    He works at one of these small footprint plastic injection molding places, a thriving little widget factory. I think people should also be shocked how little this man was / is getting paid after what appears to be several years of super solid work, attendance, and conscientiousness. Under the circumstances, $10/hr is worker exploitation.

  • Jeff

    It’s so uplifting to hear of someone who does the right thing day after day and is finally recognized and rewarded. …Maybe I’ll start tomorrow.