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Edwards Funeral Home

OBITUARY

Robert Powell

September 28, 1934October 7, 2021

Robert Morgan Powell died peacefully in his home on October 7, 2021, surrounded by his family. Fort Smith has lost a true icon…a Trucking Executive, a Naval Aviator, a good Samaritan, but most of all a strong and loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and a loyal friend. He was the epitome of leadership by example. Bob attended public school in Cary, North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, where he was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He was proud to participate in the ROTC program and was a commissioned Ensign into the United States Navy within days of graduation from college. He served from 1956 until 1960 the first time. He often remarked that being a Naval Aviator was his most enjoyable experience. He began his flight training in Pensacola, Florida, and was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the NAS Corpus and then on the NAS Jacksonville in Florida, and the NAS Oceana in Virginia. He served on the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVA11) flying the plane referred as “The Flying Dump Truck” known for the ability to drop bombs on the U.S. enemies. He traveled to New York City to tour the U.S.S. Intrepid in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of his service with his daughter, Maud, who was born while he was at sea on that ship in 1959. After Bob had gone to work for ABF in February of 1960 as a Management Trainee in the Kansas City Terminal, he was called back in to the Navy in October of 1961 through August of 1962 in the Anti-Submarine Squadron (VS721) NAS Glenville, Illinois and the NAS Seattle, Washington. Bob returned to ABF where he remained as Operation Supervisor, Operations Manager & Branch Manager until August of 1967. Bob then relocated to Fort Smith with ABF/Arkansas Best Corporation where he remained over the next two decades and rose in the ranks from Vice President of Special Commodities, Vice President of LTL Operations, Executive Vice President to ultimately the Senior Vice President. In 1983, during his tenure with ABF, Bob became the Chairman of USA Truck, Arkansas Best’s wholly owned truckload subsidiary, founded shortly after deregulation. He saw it as the only way to go to get into trucking on a non-union basis and be competitive. When the parent company was taken private in 1988 in a leveraged buyout, USA Truck was sold to a group of Arkansas Best Managers in January, 1989; Bob was one of those managers. In 1992, the Company went public and the rest was history. Bob served as Chairman, Director, President and CEO of USA Truck until his retirement in May of 2011. Throughout his trucking career he served the Trucking Industry in many capacities. He served as the State of Arkansas’ Vice President of the American Trucking Association in Washington D. C., the President of the Arkansas Trucking Association and Chairman of the Arkansas Motor Carriers Association. Bob also served as Chairman of the Fort Smith Airport Commission, President of the Fort Smith Town Club, and President of Alpha Delta Aviation as his love for flying never waivered throughout his life. He was a single and multi-engine instrument rated pilot until he was 70 years of age. Bob was preceded in death by his parents, David Kelso Powell and Rachel Alford Powell, a brother, Thomas Alford Powell, sister, Mary Powell, and his precious daughter, Jane Maud Powell Mulvany. He is survived by his wife of forty-eight years, Janice Hobbs Powell, of the home; his daughter, Carolyn Powell Hartley, her husband, Ken and their children, Mackenzie Powell Hartley and Kelso Wayne Hartley of Dallas, Texas and Taylor Hartley of Denver, Colorado; his daughter, Maud’s children, Robert Booth Ramsay, his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Olive Jane Ramsay of Woodland Hills, California, Sara Morgan Ramsay and Allison Ainsley Ramsay of San Diego, California; his daughter, Annie Powell Hendricks and husband, Andy, of Fort Smith and their children, Emma Maud Hendricks and her husband, Grant Holden, Rachel McClain Hendricks and Andrew Powell Hendricks of Fayetteville; his son, David Curry and his wife Annette of Tavernier, Florida, and David’s children, Colby Curry and his wife, Kayla and their daughter, Emery Lane Curry, Chesley Curry and her daughter, Lilly Curry of Fayetteville, Eva Curry Izaguirre and her husband, Phil of Fayetteville, Sky Moore and her husband, Dylan of Islamorada, Florida and Hunter Slate of Tavernier, Florida; his son, Dwight Curry of Fort Smith; his daughter, Lynn Curry Gilliland and her husband, Clay and her children, Robert David Weidman and Matthew Raynor Weidman of Fort Smith and Taylor Gilliland Butler and her husband, Aaron, of Little Rock; and his brother David William Powell of Charleston, South Carolina. A special thanks to the love and care given by Dr. James Henry, Judy Riser, Sabrina Brevard, Jessica Garner, Kim Oliver, Annette Polk, and Ann Lee. There will be a private family graveside service under the direction of Edwards Funeral Home. Pallbearers will be Bob’s grandsons. Memorials may be made on Bob’s behalf to the First United Methodist Church and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Foundation. In Dad’s words, “Pull the Chocks”! Online condolences may be sent to: www.edwardsfuneralhome.com

Services

  • Private Family Graveside

Memories

Robert Powell

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Bil and Nancy Stell

October 21, 2021

Dear Janice, Carolyn, Maud, Annie, Charles David, Dwight and Lynn, We read in the Fort Smith paper of Bob’s passing. We send our deepest sympathies to all of you form afar. We enjoyed many years of friendship with Bob beginning when the Stell boys were little and the Powell girls just a bit older. Your blended family is a lovely one and one of which you must be truly proud.

We pray that you find comfort in your memories and strength in the friends and family who share your loss.

Scott Powell

October 18, 2021

Rest in peace Uncle Bob. I'm sorry I never really got to meet such an accomplished man loved by so many. I hope the family will please get in touch as we have many pictures to share.
Scott.powell@b-homeinspections.com
(843)568-2403

Birnie Harper

October 12, 2021

Dear Powell Family,
Fern and I are so sorry about Bob. He was a great guy, a great businessman, and a friend.

We know you all miss him.

We wish you God's Peace

Fern and Birnie Harper

Tom Seiter

October 10, 2021

Met Bob in the summer of 1970 when I went to work for ABF. Always think of Bob when I reflect back on my early years in trucking.
Always kind to me and supported me in my early years at ABF.

Jerry and Eugene Justice

October 10, 2021

Bob and all of his family were very “special”
Ft. Smith friends to us . Our Deepest Sympathy to all of his Family and those who loved this “ dear Man “ ! We will cherish those many wonderful memories .
May God surround all of you with His Love and Peace . Our love to all of you .

Linda Udouj

October 10, 2021

Not only has your family suffered a huge loss, but also has the community! How I loved watching Bob race down the hill and across the street with “ shotguns” blasting at those horrible geese! Being your neighbor was an honor. Thank you for your service to the military as well as being an incredible businessman. My deepest condolences to the entire family.
Linda Udouj

Curtis Mullens

October 9, 2021

I had the privilege of working as a driver under the leadership of mr. Powell. There are not enought words to express how much respect I have for this man, he created and protected a atmosphere that allowed me and many others a chance to be all we could be ,I have never worked with any body I liked or respected more. I wish to express my condolences to the family of a great man

Rick Green

October 8, 2021

He was always Mr Powell to me and I still hold that respect even today. I vividly recall Mr Powell taking me out on a gravel parking lot and climbing under a 48 foot trailer and showing me how to inspect it and then climbing up in the trailer and doing the same. Mr Powell knew transportation equipment and he knew how it should look. He was not a chatty man and very direct and he expected you to work hard and be honest when he asked you a question. A giant in the industry has passed from us and I am grateful to have worked and learned from him

David Lowry

October 8, 2021

I remember Bob and I firing up his K-5 Blazer and driving around the property . We talked about trees and airplanes and cars . My dad was a pilot so there was a good conversation as well as a good cigar! Bob was cool !

Carl Jordan Jr.

October 8, 2021

My Deepest condolence to the Powell family. Mr. Powell gave me opportunities both at ABF and USA Truck. When I retired from USA Truck at the end of 2010 he was kind enough to come to my celebration given by my family.
Rest In Peace Mr. Powell

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Biography

Robert Morgan Powell died peacefully in his home on October 7, 2021, surrounded by his family. Fort Smith has lost a true icon…a Trucking Executive, a Naval Aviator, a good Samaritan, but most of all a strong and loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and a loyal friend. He was the epitome of leadership by example.
Bob attended public school in Cary, North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, where he was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He was proud to participate in the ROTC program and was a commissioned Ensign into the United States Navy within days of graduation from college. He served from 1956 until 1960 the first time. He often remarked that being a Naval Aviator was his most enjoyable experience. He began his flight training in Pensacola, Florida, and was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the NAS Corpus and then on the NAS Jacksonville in Florida, and the NAS Oceana in Virginia. He served on the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVA11) flying the plane referred as “The Flying Dump Truck” known for the ability to drop bombs on the U.S. enemies. He traveled to New York City to tour the U.S.S. Intrepid in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of his service with his daughter, Maud, who was born while he was at sea on that ship in 1959.
After Bob had gone to work for ABF in February of 1960 as a Management Trainee in the Kansas City Terminal, he was called back in to the Navy in October of 1961 through August of 1962 in the Anti-Submarine Squadron (VS721) NAS Glenville, Illinois and the NAS Seattle, Washington. Bob returned to ABF where he remained as Operation Supervisor, Operations Manager & Branch Manager until August of 1967. Bob then relocated to Fort Smith with ABF/Arkansas Best Corporation where he remained over the next two decades and rose in the ranks from Vice President of Special Commodities, Vice President of LTL Operations, Executive Vice President to ultimately the Senior Vice President.
In 1983, during his tenure with ABF, Bob became the Chairman of USA Truck, Arkansas Best’s wholly owned truckload subsidiary, founded shortly after deregulation. He saw it as the only way to go to get into trucking on a non-union basis and be competitive. When the parent company was taken private in 1988 in a leveraged buyout, USA Truck was sold to a group of Arkansas Best Managers in January, 1989; Bob was one of those managers.
In 1992, the Company went public and the rest was history. Bob served as Chairman, Director, President and CEO of USA Truck until his retirement in May of 2011.
Throughout his trucking career he served the Trucking Industry in many capacities. He served as the State of Arkansas’ Vice President of the American Trucking Association in Washington D. C., the President of the Arkansas Trucking Association and Chairman of the Arkansas Motor Carriers Association. Bob also served as Chairman of the Fort Smith Airport Commission, President of the Fort Smith Town Club, and President of Alpha Delta Aviation as his love for flying never waivered throughout his life. He was a single and multi-engine instrument rated pilot until he was 70 years of age.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents, David Kelso Powell and Rachel Alford Powell, a brother, Thomas Alford Powell, sister, Mary Powell, and his precious daughter, Jane Maud Powell Mulvany.
He is survived by his wife of forty-eight years, Janice Hobbs Powell, of the home; his daughter, Carolyn Powell Hartley, her husband, Ken and their children, Mackenzie Powell Hartley and Kelso Wayne Hartley of Dallas, Texas and Taylor Hartley of Denver, Colorado; his daughter, Maud’s children, Robert Booth Ramsay, his wife, Jessica, and their daughter, Olive Jane Ramsay of Woodland Hills, California, Sara Morgan Ramsay and Allison Ainsley Ramsay of San Diego, California; his daughter, Annie Powell Hendricks and husband, Andy, of Fort Smith and their children, Emma Maud Hendricks and her husband, Grant Holden, Rachel McClain Hendricks and Andrew Powell Hendricks of Fayetteville; his son, David Curry and his wife Annette of Tavernier, Florida, and David’s children, Colby Curry and his wife, Kayla and their daughter, Emery Lane Curry, Chesley Curry and her daughter, Lilly Curry of Fayetteville, Eva Curry Izaguirre and her husband, Phil of Fayetteville, Sky Moore and her husband, Dylan of Islamorada, Florida and Hunter Slate of Tavernier, Florida; his son, Dwight Curry of Fort Smith; his daughter, Lynn Curry Gilliland and her husband, Clay and her children, Robert David Weidman and Matthew Raynor Weidman of Fort Smith and Taylor Gilliland Butler and her husband, Aaron, of Little Rock; and his brother David William Powell of Charleston, South Carolina.
A special thanks to the love and care given by Dr. James Henry, Judy Riser, Sabrina Brevard, Jessica Garner, Kim Oliver, Annette Polk, and Ann Lee.
There will be a private family graveside service under the direction of Edwards Funeral Home. Pallbearers will be Bob’s grandsons.
Memorials may be made on Bob’s behalf to the First United Methodist Church and the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Foundation.
In Dad’s words, “Pull the Chocks”!
Online condolences may be sent to: www.edwardsfuneralhome.com