Now in our Sixth Year


Click on name for biography
John Gray Blount R. Getty Browning Champion McDowell Davis Paul P. Davis
Jack Murdock H. K. "Zeke" Saunders Ralph L. Whitehead T. Ralph Young, Jr.


Terminal 2
Opening Day Video
NC Department of
Public Instruction
Elbert L. "Eb" Peters, Jr. Robert E. "Ed" Frye Raleigh-Durham
Airport Authority

NCDPI Transportation
Services Section's
 Derek Graham

AAA's David Parsons

RDU's John Brantley
  AAA Carolinas    


John Gray Blount

John Gray Blount, along with his father and two of his brothers, was a merchant about the time of the Revolutionary War. His ships transported materials and men for the War cause, including troops for George Washington, materials to and from Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC, and other water transportation of materials and supplies. The shallow North Carolina sounds could not be navigated by ocean-going ships. He and Captain John Wallace constructed wharfs and warehouses on Shell Castle Island behind Ocracoke Inlet. His larger brigantine ships would come up to Ocracoke Inlet and would be off-loaded by lighters (small boats or barges), the goods placed in the warehouses, and sloops or periaugers would transport goods to and from towns along the Inner Banks. Thus by solving the riddle of the shallow Pamlico Sound, John Gray Blount’s shipping methods transformed North Carolina’s economy from a subsistence economy to a thriving economy. His business dealings ranged westward to Tennessee and along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean, but his base of operation from his marriage in 1778 forward was in Washington. Blount made the town his home when it was still known as Forks of the Tar River. He and his business partners had large shipping interests, owning wharves, flat boats, and seagoing vessels. They also owned sawmills, gristmills, tanneries, and cotton gins, and engaged in agricultural pursuits and the slave trade. Blount was heavily involved in land speculation, employing agents to buy and sell large tracts in western North Carolina and Tennessee. Blount represented Beaufort in the House of Commons from 1782 to 1793, served in the constitutional convention of 1787, in the state Senate for three terms, and on the council of state on several occasions. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina.


R. Getty Browning

R. Getty Browning was born in Maryland and his first jobs included surveying in Maryland, railroad and bridge surveys in West Virginia, and location surveying for highways and bridges for the Maryland Roads Commission in Baltimore. During World War I he resigned from the Roads Commission to take an active part in war activities, including the development of a large shell manufacturing project and twenty 10,000-ton tankers needed by the Navy. When the first major road building program in North Carolina was getting underway in 1921, he accepted a position as Resident Engineer in Durham, later being promoted to Construction Engineer and Assistant to the Division Engineer. In 1925 he was transferred to Raleigh to head up the combined Location and Right-of-Way Department. By 1941, the two departments were split up due to the volume of work. During this time, he was also responsible for preparing the state highway map. He served as Senior Locating and Claim Engineer for the North Carolina State Highway Commission through to the 1950's, and the state's Federal Park Engineer until 1962. The Blue Ridge Parkway captivated Browning from the moment he heard of it in 1933, and it was, by all accounts, his almost all consuming work for thirty years. He viewed the Parkway as a way to exhibit mountain scenery to millions who were not as physically capable as he (a vigorous hiker, hunter and outdoorsman). He personally - by walking the terrain - mapped out a route threading North Carolina's highest peaks; it was this route that Parkway supporters in North Carolina proposed to federal officials in 1934. It was Browning's persuasive arguments during federal hearings that resulted in the southern end of the Parkway being located in North Carolina, not Tennessee. Once the route had been decided, Browning played a crucial role in getting the Parkway built, as he was responsible for acquiring the necessary land. Conflicts arose all along the route and Browning personally negotiated with landowners large and small, trying to be fair while maintaining the glorious public parkway vision. It is largely due to Browning's dedication to getting the maximum possible right of way that the Parkway in North Carolina is today much better protected from encroachment than it is in Virginia, where the state's commitment to the project was weaker.


Champion McDowell Davis

"Champ" Davis was born in Catawba County to Cornelia Jones Nixon Davis and Captain Robert Burns Davis (CSA); the family moved to Wilmington in 1890. In 1893, at age 14, he started his railroad career as a messenger boy for the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad and Wilmington, Columbia & Augusta Railroad freight offices. Champ's willingness to work hard paid off, and he worked his way through the freight claim, passenger, and freight rate departments before reaching a plateau that was tied to his limited education. Accordingly he went to Horner Military Academy in Oxford where he obtained the necessary additional schooling, learned to be stringently-disciplined, and developed a healthy respect for authority as embodied in a clear chain of command. In 1897, he joined the Wilmington Light Infantry, and volunteered for Spanish-American War service as a member of Company K, 2nd Regiment of the North Carolina Volunteers. In 1898, Champ returned to the railroad as a rate clerk, and advanced to chief clerk by 1890. In that same year, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) was formed through the merger of the Wilmington & Weldon, Norfolk & Carolina, Atlantic Coast Line of Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Line of South Carolina and other railroads. Champ was transferred to the freight traffic department where he worked as chief clerk for four years, and then assistant general freight agent. In 1907, he was appointed General freight agent, and moved to Savannah where he oversaw freight operations in the lines south of Charleston. During World War II, he moved to Atlanta where he served as a member of the Southern Freight Traffic Committee for the United States Railroad Administration. In 1920 he moved back to Wilmington as assistant freight traffic manager for the entire ACL system; he was promoted to chief freight traffic manager in 1925, and in 1928 he was named vice president of traffic. In 1939 he was appointed vice president of all ACL departments, a position he held until 1942. During that period, he was responsible for raising the maximum speed, and instituted service with a fleet of streamlined stainless steel Budd passenger cars that would be superior to Seaboard Railroad's Silver Meteor. The trains ran under the name "Champion", although this was not proposed by Champ himself. In 1942, Champ made it to the top; he was elected president of the ACL. One of his first official acts was to make royal purple, the color of emperors and kings, his railroad's official hue. His main objective was to make the ACL the best built and best run railroad in the country. By 1951, Champ boasted that "..there is no better track structure, roadway, and riding track....that that of the Coast Line, particularly the Richmond-Jacksonville line." He initiated innovations such as reflective paint on car identification numbers, station signs, whistle posts, mile posts, and switch markings, and installed searchlight-type signals and centralized traffic controls. Champ took deep personal pride in his progressive railroad and worked round the clock to keep it that way. He announced his retirement in 1957, and eased into his next career which was philanthropy, creating the Champion McDowell Davis Charitable Foundation in 1963, resulting in the development of the Davis Health Care Center on Porters Neck Road in Wilmington.


Paul P. Davis

Paul Davis was born in Goldsboro (Wayne County) on August 21, 1915 and died in Winston-Salem on January 30, 1999 at 83 years of age. He was credited with building McLean Trucking Company into one of the largest motor carriers in the country during his tenure.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began his career with McLean in 1943 as the company's chief accountant. He was named as the Company's President and CEO in 1955.  He retired in 1980. During his 37 years with McLean, the company grew from a small regional company to the fourth largest common carrier in the United States.  It developed into a coast-to-coast carrier, serving 42 states and employing up to 12,000 people.  The year he retired, McLean had annual revenues of $725 million.  He served on the board of directors of the North Carolina Motor Carriers Association, as Vice President of the American Trucking Association and the North Carolina National Bank (NCNB was absorbed by NationsBank which was later acquired by Bank of America). McLean was a wonderful organization known for its quality personnel and excellent service.  In fact, a McLean Reunion was held in Winston-Salem in October 2008, some 23 years after the bankruptcy on January 10, 1986.  This event was well attended with over 90 former employees of this great company participating.


Jack Murdock
Jack Murdock was born in Raleigh in 1934 and attended Hugh Morson High School (long since demolished), and went on to Wake Forest University from which he graduated in 1957. After being in the U. S. Army and a 6-year stint as assistant coach of the Wake Forest men's basketball team, he was invited by State Highway Commissioner Joe Hunt to join the State Highway Commission in 1966 as Assistant Secondary Roads Officer, and, in 1969, was appointed Secondary Roads Officer by then-Assistant Highway Administrator Billy Rose (NCTHF Inductee in 2005) and Highway Administrator George Willoughby. 1969 was the year that the State Legislature raised the gasoline tax by 2 cents per gallon and re-emphasized the paving of secondary roads. In 1972, as part of a total reorganization of state government, the State Highway Commission was replaced by a 12-member Board of Transportation and a 14-member Secondary Roads Council. Working closely with the Council, Jack Murdock implemented a secondary road paving priority system for each county, based on the number of unpaved miles and average daily traffic over 100 vehicles. He and his small staff handled all complaints about paving, dust, pot-holes, etc., relating to secondary roads, as well as paving access roads for new industries.  His dedication to work duty, his professionalism, and his popularity with NCDOT staff, county secondary road constituents and state legislators resulted in his remaining as Secondary Roads Officer through all the various Democratic and Republican administrations until he retired in 1996. In addition to his transportation-related accomplishments, Jack Murdock is a sports legend in North Carolina, having led Hugh Morson H.S. to the North Carolina state basketball championship. He was also the MVP of the 1953 East-West Basketball All-Star Game. From 1954 to 1957, he played basketball at Wake Forest. In 1956, he was a second-team all-ACC selection, and in 1957, he was a first-team selection. He also played baseball during his freshman and senior seasons at Wake Forest. In the 1965-66 season, he was the school's basketball coach. He is a member of the NC Sports Hall of Fame and the NC Softball Hall of Fame.


H. K. "Zeke" Saunders

A native of Catawba County near Hickory, Zeke Saunders joined Piedmont Airlines as a flight instructor during World War II, and then served the U.S. Army Air Forces flying dangerous missions in C-47s over the “hump” between Burma and China. After the war ended, he returned to Piedmont as chief pilot, where he organized a respected corps of pilots known for safety and skill as the company began passenger service. If Tom Davis was the brains of Piedmont, Zeke Saunders was the heart.
In 1952, he was appointed vice-president of operations. As Piedmont entered the jet age in the 1960s, Captain Saunders was a key participant in building a trusting relationship between Piedmont and the Boeing Company. He retired from Piedmont Airlines at Winston-Salem in 1982, but has remained active with aviation activities in the subsequent 27 years.
Richard E. Eller, author of Piedmont Airlines, A Complete History, 1948-1989, writes that “Zeke Saunders embodies the spirit of aviation as stunt flyer, pilot, and ultimately senior vice president at Piedmont Airlines, where his common sense, intelligence, and adventurous drive helped create a phenomenal success story.”


Ralph Whitehead

Ralph Layton Whitehead was born in Hobgood (Halifax County), North Carolina in 1927. His 42-year career in transportation design and engineering began with the City of Greensboro in 1950, after serving for two years as a sergeant in the U. S. Army Eighth Air Force in Europe and graduating from North Carolina State University with a BS in Civil Engineering. Private practice called, however, and the period 1951-1956 was spent gaining increased responsibility in charge of a variety of street, bridge and railroad improvement projects in the Charlotte area. He lived and worked in Atlanta from 1956 to 1961 designing industrial plant buildings and facilities, railroad and highway bridges, buildings and utilities for military installations, expressways, schools, etc. He returned to Charlotte in 1961 to found Ralph Whitehead & Associates and personally supervised the surveying, planning and construction of the “Charlotte East and West Side Street-Railway Grade Separation Projects”, including seven railway bridge structures of steel and prestressed concrete beams. The project involved grade-separating the railroad line and major uptown streets at Morehead, 3rd, 4th and Trade Streets.  This project became the stepping stone for the establishment of Ralph Whitehead & Associates (RWA) as a premier civil engineering firm in the Charlotte area, designing over 100 projects in the Charlotte area over the next quarter century. To date, these projects have included site work for Two First Union Tower and the Carolina Panthers Stadium, the Charlotte Vintage Trolley, the Independence Boulevard Busway, structures on the South Transit Corridor, the extension of Tyvola Road, and I-77 widening. For the North Carolina DOT, RWA has designed many roadway and bridge projects, including the award-winning US 17 Neuse River Bridge in New Bern. RWA also conducted the Salisbury-to-Asheville Passenger Rail Study, and has significant business with the nation's railroads, applying its expertise in mainline and spur line improvements, rail yards, rail sidings, inter-modal facilities, and grade crossings. Although Mr. Whitehead retired from the company in 1992, and it was subsequently incorporated into the Pennsylvania-based STV Group, Inc. in 2006 as STV/Ralph Whitehead & Associates, Mr. Whitehead's drive, creativity and passion for excellence continues today.


T. Ralph Young, Jr.
T. Ralph Young, Jr. is a native of Asheville and has been in the transportation business for 65 years.  He attended and graduated from Mars Hill College and Wake Forest University.  His father, T. Ralph Young, Sr. was originally owned a trucking business located in a mill village on the outskirts of Asheville. In 1933, his work crew members wanted to go to the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, so he put seats in the back of the truck and made three trips to Chicago and one to Niagara Falls. After that experience, Mr. Young Sr. was asked to start a bus service to Asheville on a regular schedule for them to go to work and to shop. In 1939, 70 years ago, this bus service was started, to become the Asheville-Elk Mountain Bus Line. The scheduled bus service continued, helped by his son, T. Ralph Young, Jr., who bought the business upon the death of his father in 1960. After the demand for scheduled bus service declined in the 1970's, the company diversified into Charter, School Transportation for the City of Asheville, and Tours. In 1975, Young incorporated and changed the name from Asheville-Elk Mountain Bus Line to T.R.Y., Inc., d.b.a. Young Transportation. In 1982, Young purchased 40 new buses to provide shuttle and charter services to the Knoxville, Tennessee World's Fair. After the World's Fair was over, two additional buses were acquired. In the mid 80's, the scheduled runs were dropped and Young became a Tour, Charter and Contract Company. Today, Young Transportation operates 49 vehicles through the United States and Canada. Young employs over 100 people that serve in many capacities supporting the Charter, Tour, Receptive and Destination Management Divisions. A new 21,000-square-foot facility was built in 1995 to allow for continued growth in the travel industry. Mr. Young is on the board of directors of the NC Motorcoach Association. and has been president five times; he is a founding member of the International Motorcoach Group; and serves on the board of directors of the United Motorcoach Association. His company was named Asheville Chamber Small Business Leader of the Year in 2004, Operator of Year by the International Motor Coach Group in 2007, and Family Business Leader of the Year by Business North Carolina Magazine in 2009. 



2009 PERLEY A. THOMAS AWARD for Excellence in Pupil Transportation

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Transportation Services Section

In recognition of its pioneering efforts and continuing successes in school bus routing, safety, and services to local pupil transportation systems throughout North Carolina.  Thomas Built Buses CEO John O'Leary will present the award to the Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham.

2009 EARL E. CONGDON, Jr. AWARD for Excellence in Highway Freight Transportation

Elbert L. Peters, Jr.

In recognition of his exemplary service to North Carolina's transportation industry in the governor's Highway Safety Program (11 years), as Commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles (4 years), and as President of the North Carolina Trucking Association (19 years).  David S. Congdon, President and CEO of Thomasville-based Old Dominion Freight Line (and son of Earl E. Congdon, Jr.) will present the award to Mr. Peters.

2009 THOMAS H, DAVIS, Sr. AWARD for Excellence in Aviation

Robert E. "Ed" Frye

In recognition of his second career (his first was in the US Air Force for 26 years) at Guilford Technical Community College, which started as Director of the T. H. Davis Aviation Center in 1997, and since 1998 Chair of the Transportation Systems Technology Division.  As a result of his creative leadership, GTCC is currently training between 400-500 students at any given time in a variety of aviation maintenance programs, including nearly 200 current and future employees for Greensboro-based Honda Aircraft Company, Inc.  Thomas H. "Bo" Davis, Jr. (son of the late Thomas H. Davis, Sr.) will present the award to Mr. Frye.

2009 NELLO L. TEER, Sr. AWARD for Excellence in Transportation Construction

Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority

In recognition of the Airport Authority's vision, design and construction of Terminal 2 which debuted on October 26, 2008 (view the video broadcast on WTVD).  Robert D. "Robb" Teer (grandson of Nello L. Teer, Sr.) will present the award to RDU Airport Director John Brantley on behalf of the Airport Authority

2009 FOUNDERS' AWARD for Excellence in Transportation

AAA Carolinas

In recognition of the comprehensive range of effective services that AAA Carolinas provides to both its members and other motorists in North Carolina, its advocacy of traffic safety issues such as seat belt use and anti-texting, and the timely, accurate and informative content in go Magazine.  NCTHF Co-Founder Robert L. Martin will present the award to AAA Carolinas President and Chief Executive Officer David E. Parsons.