Trucking pioneer J. Harwood Cochrane, who founded LTL carrier Overnite Transportation Co. during the Depression, died at age 103 on July 25 in Richmond, Va.
The native Virginian’s first job was driving a horse-drawn wagon that delivered milk for a dairy. At age 21, Cochrane traded in his Ford car for a Chevy tractor and trailer and, with one of his brothers, started hauling freight from Richmond to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. He started Overnite in 1935 and remained at the helm of the highly successful LTL carrier for over 50 years.
Under Cochrane’s leadership, Overnite not only survived trucking deregulation in the ‘80s, it thrived. By 1982, the carrier was offering coast-to-coast service. Cochrane sold Overnite to rail giant Union Pacific in 1986 for $1.2 billion-- the largest amount ever paid for a trucking company. He stayed on as chairman and CEO for several years before retiring.
But he got right back into trucking in 1991, at age 79, by launching Highway Express. The truckload carrier also did well, albeit on a smaller scale than Overnite had, and Cochrane sold it to Celadon Group in 2003.
He was well known not just for helping build the trucking industry from the ground up. Along with his wife, Louise, Cochrane was a noted philanthropist who contributed millions to arts-based and community organizations, schools, churches, museums, and the Red Cross. Louise Cochrane died in December at age 99. They had been married for 81 years.
Cochrane is survived by daughter Judith Carr Cochrane Gilman-Hines (Spencer), son James Harwood Cochrane, Jr., and eight grandchildren. He was also predeceased by two daughters, Suzanne Hope Cochrane Austell Martin and Treena Louise Cochrane.
Visitation will be held July 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. at Woody Funeral Home, 1771 N. Parham Road, Richmond, Va., 23229, Tel: 804-288-3013. His funeral will be held in Richmond on July 30 at 11 a.m. at Tabernacle Baptist Church.