J.B. Hunt trucking company founder dies

Thursday, December 7th 2006, 12:58 pm
By: News On 6

LOWELL, Ark. (AP) -- Johnnie Bryan Hunt Senior, founder of one of the nation's largest trucking companies, died today. The 79-year-old Hunt had been in critical condition at a Springdale hospital after hitting his head on ice in a fall Saturday. A sharecropper's son, he began JB Hunt Transport Services in 1969 with five tractors and seven trailers. By 2004, when Hunt stepped down as the company's senior chairman, the company was a billion-dollar business with more than 16,000 employees and a fleet of some 11,000 trucks.

After he retired, Hunt pursued interests as a private investor in real estate, construction, and development. He and his wife, Johnelle, remained the largest shareholder of J.B. Hunt stock.

Aside from his business success, Hunt also was known for his kindness to others. He carried a wad of $100 bills in a gold money clip and regularly handed one to people he thought needed the money. He told Forbes magazine in a 1992 interview -- quote -- "I was hungry once. And once you're hungry, you're different."

Hunt built a fleet of company-owned trucks, driven by uniformed drivers. He courted Wal-Mart owner Sam Walton, who eventually became Hunt's largest customer. All of Hunt's workers were non-union.

In 1980, the trucking industry was deregulated, and J.B. Hunt Transport took off. Three years later, the company went public. Hunt also introduced on-board computers into his transport service in the 1990s.

Hunt also was involved with the Pinnacle Group, which recently opened Pinnacle Hill a one-million-square-foot retail and office center in Rogers.