Trucking magnate J.B. Hunt dies at 79

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J.B. Hunt Transport Services announced Thursday, Dec. 7, the death of its founder, Johnnie Bryan Hunt Sr., who had suffered head injuries five days earlier when he slipped on ice and fell at his home in Goshen, Ark. Hunt was 79.

Born in Cleburne County in 1927, Hunt started J.B. Hunt Co., a rice hull business, in 1961. In 1969, he started J.B. Hunt Transport with five trucks and seven refrigerated trailers as a sideline to support his rice hull business. His efforts made way for the evolution to J.B. Hunt Transport Services, now a billion-dollar publicly traded company with more than 16,000 employees and a fleet of some 11,000 trucks and 47,000 trailers. J.B. Hunt Transport Services ranks No. 8 on The CCJ Top 250, the magazine’s annual listing of the nation’s leading for-hire trucking operations.

Hunt gave up his position of company president in 1982 but continued to serve as chairman until 1995. He took on the title senior chairman, turning over day-to-day operations. In 2004, Hunt fully retired from the company and focused on his real estate development venture, the Pinnacle Group. He served as an ambassador for growth in the Northwest Arkansas region by engaging in several projects that dot the area’s landscape, according to a statement released by J.B. Hunt Transport Services.

Hunt and his wife of 54 years, Johnelle, remained the largest shareholder of JBHT stock with more than 34 million shares, or 24 percent of the company, Bloomberg reported. Mrs. Hunt and their son, Bryan, remain as directors of the company.

“The son of Depression-era sharecroppers from rural Arkansas, J.B. leaves us with a legacy of hard work, family values, the importance of faith, the example of what determination can accomplish, an appreciation for philanthropy and a ton of memories,” the carrier said in its statement.