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My first experience with trucking began around 1948. My grandfather had an open-bed six-wheel truck with tall wooden sides all around it. I remember him coming into our neighborhood to round up all of the little children, loading us on to that truck and taking us with him for the whole day on any given Saturday.
In 1953 my mother moved us from South Carolina to Brooklyn, N.Y. I didn’t care for the city, but I established a long-term friendship with my next-door neighbor. His father was an owner-operator. On weekends and any other time we were out of school, he would take me out on the road with him and his son. I loved those trips because it gave me a chance to see parts of America that other children in the city never got to see. My friend’s father would talk to us about life. He played a major role in keeping me out of the gangs and giving me the desire to strive to be the best I could.
In 1961 I graduated high school with honors and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving two years. Eventually I moved to Detroit, where I worked as a bus driver and had the opportunity to meet Jim Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters. I was a member of Local 299. One day I was approached by the terminal manager of a trucking company that hauled automobiles. He told me they were looking for a Negro truck driver, and if I was interested they would train me. I knew nothing about hauling cars, but I knew I could drive a truck. I accepted his offer. I became the first person of color to drive a car hauler out of Michigan.
My trucking career has taken me all over America and Canada. The friends I’ve made and the adventures I’ve had over the road have given me a love for this work. I’ve driven all kinds of trucks and worked in all types of conditions while maintaining an excellent safety record over 4 million miles.
My family and I have lived through the Detroit riots, the two attacks on New York City, and most recently Hurricane Katrina, which left my wife and I homeless.
Trucking is the one thing that has been constant in my life and allowed me to continue to fight adversity. It has allowed my wife and me to start a new life in Dothan, Ala., with the help of many people. I have truly benefited and have no regrets about being an over the road driver. The trucking industry is the backbone of the American economy. It’s also the backbone of my life.