|“||Yes, sir. Yes, sir, I sure do. And, don't you worry about a thing, Mr. Werthan! I'm gonna hold on no matter how she run me. You see, I used to rassle hogs down yonder in Macon, and, let me tell you, ain't no hog got away from me yet!||„|
|~ Hoke, accepting Boolie Werthan's job offer.|
Hoke Coburn was a protagonist hero of the play Driving Miss Daisy and both the movie and television pilot based upon the original play.
In the late 1940s, Daisy Werthan was an older Jewish widow living in Atlanta, Georgia. Going out to run errands she panicked and backed her Crysler over a retaining wall, totalling the car in the process. Believing that his mother shouldn't drive herself any more, her son and local businessman Boolie Werthan began searching for a driver.
Soon Hoke Coburn showed up at the family textile mill and helped with a stuck elevator, impressing Boolie. Meeting in Boolie's office Hoke explained that he had learned how to drive while working for a dairy farm, and then spent many years driving for a local judge who was friends with Boolie's father, but when that judge died his widow decided to move away and offered Hoke to continue driving for her at her new home. Hoke declined as he didn't want to move away from his children and grandchildren. Boolie explained the situation, that he needed someone to drive his mother. Boolie explained that Hoke would be working for him, and that she could say what she liked but could not fire him.
At first Daisy was highly resistant to having Hoke around, and refused to let him drive her anywhere. Eventually Hoke convinced Daisy to start letting him drive her when she needed to go out. Hoke was an honest man, and when he used Daisy's food he would purchase food to replace what he had eaten.
When Hoke admitted that he couldn't read Daisy - a retired teacher - took it upon herself to teach Hoke how to read. She informed Hoke that she had taught some of the dumbest children on Earth and that if they could learn to read so could he, which he managed to do.
Hoke was a highly skilled driver. When the Atlanta area experienced a winter storm it left most of the area under a sheet of ice. Hoke, who had learned how to drive on ice many years earlier, drove out to make sure Daisy was ok, surprising even Boolie who was stuck at his own home. He kept her company and got a fire going, and Daisy told him to eat what he wanted out of the icebox before it spoiled.
Hoke continued to drive for Daisy for a very long time. As Boolie would purchase new cars for his mother to use, Hoke would in turn purchase the vehicle that Boolie was trading in, and continued this practice for the rest of his employment with Boolie. Hoke learned how to stand up for himself when Daisy was being unreasonable, and taught her that he wasn't some back of the neck she looked at when she needed to go somewhere.
Being somewhat sheltered her entire life, Daisy at first did not realize just deeply ingrained racism and religious discrimination was in the mid 20th century south outside Atlanta. It was Hoke who helped to break through this shell and show her that there was considerable discrimination, not only against him as a black man, but also against her and her family owing to their Jewish background.
|“||Daisy Werthan: Hoke?
Hoke Colburn: Yes'm.
Daisy Werthan: You're my best friend.
Hoke Colburn: No, go on Miss Daisy.
Daisy Werthan: No, really, you are...You are.
Hoke Colburn: Yes'm.
|~ Daisy telling Hoke that he was her best friend|
One day in the early 1970s Hoke arrived at Daisy's home to find her frightened and confused. Daisy was convinced that she was still a teacher and that she needed to find her student's homework that she thought the had graded to take back to school to give to them. Hoke called Boolie to come over right away so they could get Daisy the help she needed. He then got Daisy to sit down while Hoke made his way to Daisy's home. Daisy then told Hoke that he was her best friend.
Getting up there in years himself Hoke decided to quit driving. Even though it was difficult to get out to the nursing home where Daisy was living, he would take a taxi out there as often as he could. Meanwhile when it became clear his mother would not be able to live in her house anymore Boolie had the house sold. Having his Granddaughter - a biology professor - drive him Hoke met Boolie at the house one last time.
The pair went up to the nursing home where Daisy was living. It was one of her good days and the two friends conversed after which Hoke helped Daisy have some pie for Thanksgiving.
- The character of Hoke Coburn was loosely based on Will Coleman, who had worked as a chauffeur for author Alfred Uhry's grandmother Lena Fox.