A Legend at Estes Express Lines, Rosa Carter

Who is Rosa Carter?

Rosa Connally Moore began working in the home office in Chase City in 1944, just 13 months after she graduated from Chase City High School as salutatorian. Just after she started with the company, W.W. Estes purchased additional operating territory in Virginia’s Northern Neck from Bristow Lines. “I was working in Chase City the day they started operating Bristow, and Mr. Estes called me because they needed me at the Richmond terminal that night to do billing,” said Rosa in a 2005 interview. “So I just got on the bus, went to Richmond, and ended up staying here until my retirement in 1990.”

After moving to Richmond, Rosa married Harvie Carter in 1946, and pretty quickly, she had him started on a freight transportation career too. He was a traffic manager for Epes Transportation.

Over the years, Rosa worked her way up in the company and also developed a résumé of civic memberships and duties that could have been shared by 10 women.

Thrift with a purpose

One of Rosa’s more compelling traits was her ability to do a lot with very little. As with most children who lived through the Great Depression, Rosa watched expenses like a hawk. Things were especially tight during the lean years even after WWII, and retired sales executive and district operations manager Garfield Salyers once said that when she was working at Estes, there was a saying, “Don’t ever let Rosa catch you with a company scratch pad. Those were made
for customers!”

Betty Wells in the IT department clearly remembers Rosa’s cautious approach to spending. “Mrs. Carter was the greatest at saving a penny for the company. She was very thrifty—as if it were her money. Everyone used to joke about throwing anything away because she insisted anything that could be reused (like used envelopes), was reused. Estes must have saved a million dollars with her here.”

Forty-six years and three generations

Rosa saw a lot over her 46 years with Estes. When she first came to work in 1944, the company only employed about 35 people. But by the time she retired in 1990, the company had grown to over 1,600 employees.

When all was said and done, Rosa had worked with all three generations of Estes’ leadership. During her time with the company, she demonstrated an exemplary level of dedication, cost control and loyalty. (She even performed the ultimate sacrifice of not cashing her paycheck on a few occasions during those times when company finances were really tight!) She ended up playing a very important organizational role in the company’s future, so it’s only fitting that we honor her service and thank her for her hard work and dedication.

Three generations

Rosa was hired by W.W. Estes, worked very closely with Robey Estes and knew Rob Estes from the time he was born.

W.W. Estes

Retired Director of Accounts Receivable Betty Reed recalled that W.W. really trusted and admired Rosa Carter because she took such good care of the office, and it was clear that the respect was mutual. In 2005, Rosa fondly recalled W.W. “He was very nice. He didn’t have any foolishness. A lot of the time he was more of a friend than a boss. He lived in Chase City even after the terminal moved to Richmond, but he came up fairly often—just about every week. I knew him before I went to work at Estes because I worked at Rose’s drug store in Chase City, and he came in
there sometimes.”

Rosa also noted W.W.’s caring kindness for his employees. “One young woman that worked in the office was having a hard time. Her fiancée had been killed in WWII fighting, and when she started to date again, she had a nervous breakdown. W.W. said that we couldn’t operate without her. So he asked me to discretely check on her periodically, and if there was work that was not completed, to quietly take it off her desk and get it done until she could handle
things again.”

She also noted that he would “make do” when he had to, but he always managed within the company’s means. “When we first moved over to Gordon Avenue in 1951, we had no air conditioning. We didn’t even have a ceiling—just open beams. It was really hot in there. So Mr. W.W. Estes got some ice and put a fan behind it to cool the place down.”

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Robey Estes

In 2005, Rosa recalled some very hard times during the 1950s when W.W.’s son Robey Estes was general manager. “We had trouble paying some of the interline companies in the early days. Robey kept some of the letters saying how much money we owed them. Years later, he would pull open his desk drawer and say, ‘I’ve still got some of those letters, and just in case I get to feeling too big, I pull them open and read them.’”

Betty Wells remembers how “Mr. Robey” would joke with Rosa. “She was very strict in her beliefs and very organized. She was a wonderful woman and very well respected by all who knew her. I do think she had a lot to do with keeping the company moving forward. But Mr. Robey used to tease her by telling stories about her, and her face would turn bright red.”

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Rob Estes

Rob remembers that his father would pay him only a dollar or two each day he came to work for the company when he was a boy. “One day, I came to cut the grass out in front of the Home Office. It took me 30 minutes, and Rosa paid me $5. I jokingly told my dad that I wanted to work for Rosa!”

Rob also recalls that his father would tease Rosa about her Corporate Secretary status, deliberately confusing the board of directors’ position with the clerical kind of secretary that would make appointments, type memos and answer the phone. Apparently, Mr. Robey was pretty skilled at making Rosa blush bright red.

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