William “Buz” Baker Watkins IV, of the prominent trucking family, died of cancer Monday, July 2, at age 71, the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger reported Wednesday, July 4. Watkins was the former board vice chairman of Watkins Motor Lines, which spent four decades in Lakeland before its acquisition by FedEx Corp. last year. Most recently, he served as chairman of Watkins Associated Industries, a transportation and real estate development firm with offices in Lakeland and Atlanta.
His father, Bill, founded Watkins Motor Lines in Thomasville in 1932, hauling produce from the family’s farm. By 2005, the private company’s annual revenues totaled $1 billion, and it employed more than 10,000 people nationwide, with facilities in 42 states. FedEx completed its $780 million acquisition of the business last September and renamed it FedEx National LTL.
Watkins’ brother, John, served as the firm’s chairman and chief executive and continues to head Watkins Associated Industries. His son, Chip, left FedEx LTL in March to become board chairman of truckload services for Watkins Associated Industries, which includes Lakeland-based firms Sunco Carriers and Land Span, in addition to Highway Transport Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn.