September 1, 2006
Robey W. Estes, Sr., dies at age 85;
Estes Express Lines mourns the passing of a great leader
RICHMOND, VA—Robey W. Estes, Sr., age 85, died on Wednesday, August 30, 2006, in his home in Richmond, Va. He was the son of Estes Express Lines' founder W.W. Estes, president of the company from 1971–1990 and father of current President and CEO Robey W. Estes, Jr. (Rob).
Born in Mecklenburg County, Va., in 1921, Robey Estes was 10 years old when his father bought his first used Chevrolet truck and started a trucking business. He began working with his father's company during summer vacations while he was in high school.
While still in high school, he enlisted in a Virginia National Guard regiment that was activated early in World War II. He served his country for four and a half years, participating in the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded three times and twice awarded the Purple Heart.
After returning home to Virginia, he attended the University of Richmond, but midway through his second year, he decided that “the business needed me more than I needed an education.” So he quit to join Estes Express Lines on a full-time basis in 1946, and his father put him to work right away at one of the terminals. He served in just about every capacity—as driver, office clerk, shop foreman and terminal manager—before becoming the company's general manager in 1953.
Robey spearheaded measures to dramatically improve the company's safety and claims records, as well as its customer service and financial stability. As a result, in 1957, Estes Express Lines celebrated its first million-dollar year. His father passed away in 1971, at which point he became president. He continued in his father's footsteps with the steadfast requirement for top-quality customer service, and he grew the company significantly in the ‘70s and ‘80s through acquisitions and expansion. By the time Robey turned over the presidency to his son Rob in 1990, he had built the small, family-owned business into a major East Coast Carrier, and the company had developed a solid reputation for premium service.
He was a long-time active member of Westover Baptist Church, serving several terms as deacon. He was active in various community and transportation associations and served as president of the Virginia Highway Users Association (now the Virginia Trucking Association) from 1973–1975. He was a member of the VHUA Board of Directors from 1956 until his death and served on various VHUA/VTA committees during his 50 years of service, often acting as chairman. He also served as Vice President at Large for the American Trucking Association from 1980 until 1997. In 2003, he received Ernst & Young's Virginia Lifetime Achievement Entrepreneur of the Year Award for commitment to both business and community.
“Mr. Robey was a pioneer who helped lead the growth of the trucking industry in Virginia and throughout the country. He was a leader viewed by his peers in the trucking industry and the business community as one of the most respected and most successful businessmen in the state,” said Dale Bennett, executive vice president of the Virginia Trucking Association. “He was such a fixture in the industry that even politicians who didn't share his views respected and sought his advice.”
His passion for the transportation industry and the people who made it run was clearly reflected in his persona. “He had a real impact on everyone. He was genuine and personable even to people he had just met,” said Vice President of Corporate Operations J.T. Johnson.
“He was the leader of this company for a long time,” said Chief Operating Officer Billy Hupp. “He had great strength. The loyalty and dedication his employees felt toward him were driving forces at Estes Express Lines.”
About Estes Express Lines
Richmond, VA-based Estes Express Lines is a full-service transportation provider offering coast-to-coast North American coverage. Founded in 1931 by W.W. Estes, the company is still owned and operated by the Estes family. Estes now employs more than 13,500 people and boasts an inventory of more than 27,000 pieces of power equipment and trailers, as well as a network of 178 terminals serving 46 states and the Caribbean. Estes Express has grown from a small local carrier into one of the most respected multiregional, less-than-truckload and truckload transportation systems in the country. Beyond its direct service, the company also covers major commercial markets in Mexico, as well as all of the United States and Canada, through its membership in the ExpressLINK service network.