Entrepreneurs of North Carolina History Exhibit


1934 Thomas Henry Davis

Tom Davis began his flight career from a very early age.  Before earning his drivers licence Davis had recieved his pilot's licence in 1934 in Winston Salem.  His fascination and curiosity on flying and teaching leadhim to join the Camel City Flying service as a salesman “where he sold over 100 planes in his first year”.  His success in the company lead him to become VP, treasuer and principle stockholder of Came City and changed the name to Piedmont Aviation, Inc.  The company grew with Davis’s visionand by 1955 had operating hubs in “Winston Salem- Greensboro, Roanoke and Bristol-Johnson City Kinsgport - leading the industry in pioneering multi hub operations”  By 1981 Davis had developed Piedmont Aviation, Inc into a national brand and served as CEO until his retirement in 1983 when US Airways acquired the company the next year.

1934 Malcom McLean

McLean began his ascent into the transportation industry when he purchased a truck in 1934 for $120 dollars and began hauling dirt, produce and farming related equipment around his home town. After a few years of growth followed by a economic depression he was back to the drawing board.  A stroke of brilliance came out of an experience McLean had while he waited for several hours to unload his truck onto a ship.  Out of his new vision of increased standardization and efficiency for shipping he spent the next “decade and a half...concentrated on his trucking business, and by the early 1950’s with 1,776 trucks and 37 transport terminals along the eastern seaboard.”  McLean had built the largest trucking fleet in the south and had his sights on water transportation and what whats to become “containerized cargo”.  McLean’s advances and vision put him in the category of other great transportation leaders like Robert Fulton and changed world transportation for the better.

Developing the first safe, reliable and cost effective approach to transportation containerized cargo is McLeans greatest contribution to the world transportation.

1854 Thomas Hackney

Originally a buggie and wagon manufacturer the Hackney Brothers began their humble beginnings in Wilson, NC in 1854.  The small family business foresaw the future of the automobile industry and steadily grew over the years until the 1950’s when the company ran into great success in refrigerated trucks paralleled with a dying profits in the school bus line.

After WWII, Thomas Hackney joined the Hackney Brothers team as secretary-treasurer in 1947 and worked his way to presidency of the company in 1956.  Hackneys leadership pushed the company to lead the industry in refrigerated trucks in North Carolina.  As the industry changed Hackney so did Hackneys product line.  What was once a company that “expanded its product line to include ambulances, house trailers, hearses, portable storage rooms, temporary bleachers, car- top sleepers, and school buses” with the decisive leadership of Hackney  focused primarily on refrigerated trucks.
Expansion into Fayetteville Arkansas in 1978 shortly followed by a sharp decline in the mil-truck industry was the last attempt to grasp the market for Tomas Hackney Trucking Company.  Shortly after,  the majority holder “H.I.G. Investment group, bought Hackney Brothers, Inc.  In 1996, TTI closed the company and moved production to Hackney and Sons Company in Washington, NC.

Tom Hackney after the companies close continued to serve his community as a “chairman for the North Carolina Citizens Association, Atlantic Christian College and the Wilson Industrial Counsel.  Most importantly “Tom Hackney successfully led the Hackney Brothers in the truck building business for more than 60 year.  The North Carolina manufacturer was the longest lasting firm that started as as a buggy and wagon manufacturer”

1943Frank Hawkin Kenan

Frank Kenan’s transportation empire began with a small one man on truck operation called the Kenan Oil Company in 1935.  Kenan foresaw the future of oil transportation and began expanding his business after WWII where he served as a lieutenant in the Navy. As his business grew so did his transportation needs, by 1943 Kenan Transportation company was founded and would “grow into the largest Southeast petroleum hauler.  Kenan’s business ventured beyond oil and he invested in gasoline stations, shopping centers and truck stops.  His business ventures  and success is seen by his developments in Florida and his attributes with Flagler Systems Inc.

Frank has been awarded honorary degrees from more than six universities and his name is forever remembered as part of UNC Chapel Hill as the Kenan-Flagler School of Business.