Bus Company Wins Interstate Approval

Published 11:10 am Friday, July 26, 2013

EDITORS NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.


JULY 26, 1963

Somebody up in Washington has a heart for the small fellow after all. Following a three-year battle with transportation industry giants, Greyhound and Trailways, Gurnie Blunt of 309 Roosevelt Street in Franklin has won the right to operate his bus line on interstate charter trips.

Blunt, who has been in business in Franklin since 1950, has been tangled up in a legal fight for an interstate license from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) since 1959.

For many years, Blunt operated his five buses out of state not knowing it was illegal to do so without a license. He found out the hard way that he was in violation. In 1959, on a trip from Booker T. Washington High School to Washington, D.C., Blunt was followed and later reported to the ICC.

In July of that year, Blunt appeared at an ICC hearing in Richmond; and, in support of his application for a license, he presented written endorsements from the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin Jaycees. And, appearing at the hearing on Blunt’s behalf were G. Hinson Parker, Marion Whitfield and a representative from Darden Oil Co.

Appearing in opposition to Blunt’s application were attorneys for Greyhound and Trailways. Their stated reason for being in opposition was “we can handle ALL the business there is from the Franklin area.” Despite Blunt’s demonstrated ability to operate his bus line efficiently and safely, the commission ruled against him. He didn’t know it then but his fight was just beginning.

He filed again and a second hearing was held in January of 1960. Again, the ICC ruled against him.

Following that denial, Blunt’s attorney, Henry E. Ketner of Richmond, filed an appeal and another hearing was granted – one year later – in January of 1961. At that hearing, more than 145 witnesses appeared on Blunt’s behalf. They were representing civic clubs and organizations from Southampton, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Nansemond counties, and the City of Franklin. Included in the group was Franklin Police Chief Willie Burrow who added a character reference for Blunt.

Blunt’s supporters told the ICC that he had been in business for 14 years, has an excellent driving record and is well thought of by residents of his community. He provides dependable charter service for many schools and groups.

Again, he had opposition. This time it was just Trailways. Nevertheless, this time around, the ICC granted Blunt an interstate license. However, Trailways attorneys promptly appealed it to the ICC in Washington.

At the appeals hearing, a Trailways representative said, “Blunt is unfit, unwilling and incapable of operating interstate bus service.” In commenting further, another Trailways person said, “We own 289 buses for interstate work and these buses are modern with air conditioning and restrooms.” “Our buses cost them from $45,000 to $50,000 each and are available for charter service on an hour’s notice.” “We run three routes through Franklin.”

In October of 1962, Blunt received notice that his application had been denied again. By this time, Blunt was discouraged and his attorney even said he didn’t expect he could ever win.

But Blunt decided to continue the fight. He was reinforced by the support of so many people. “Everywhere I went people would come up to me and say ‘I am behind you, keep trying’,” Blunt said.

In March of 1963, Blunt’s attorney agreed to file another appeal to the ICC. Another hearing was held. This time, there was no opposition and approval was granted. Blunt can now operate his buses out of state. However, permission was limited to Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and New York City.

The ICC, in trying to justify its earlier denials, said that they wanted to make sure existing carriers have all the business they could handle before allowing another carrier to enter the field. “But, since Blunt has been in business for 14 years without an accident, has no court record and 145 people are supporting his application, we NOW have second thoughts, and are reversing ourselves,” an ICC spokesman said. “It would seem like there is enough business for Blunt and the others too.”

“I owe it to the people of Franklin, they were behind me and I just couldn’t stop and still face them,” commented Blunt.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com