NAMO honors pioneering black Virginia bus operator

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, September 12, 2015

The National Association of Motorcoach Operators officially inaugurated a Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual conference here last month by honoring a pioneering black bus operator.

The late Gurnie Blunt of Franklin, Virginia, was named the initial recipient of the award. A plaque was presented to members of his Blunt’s family.



Blunt founded a bus company, eventually called Franklin Bus Service, after he was discharged from the Army following World War II. His first bus was a converted dump truck.

After providing bus service to a wide variety of customers, including transporting workers to major employers in Virginia’s Tidewater area for nearly a decade, Blunt sought interstate operating authority.

He spent the next four years battling Greyhound Lines, Trailways operators and federal bureaucrats, seeking approval to operate across state lines. His applications, despite widespread local support, were rejected four times.

Finally, Greyhound and Trailways’ representatives stopped protesting and coming to hearings conducted to consider Blunt’s application.

He won Interstate Commerce Commission approval in 1963.

Blunt continued to operate and grow his company into the mid-1980s when his son, Ricky, took over. Ricky Blunt operated the company until 2004, when illness forced him to dispose of the business.

Despite only a seventh-grade education and a system stacked against newcomers and minorities, the senior Blunt persevered and built a successful company, becoming a role model for other black bus operators.

He died in 2012 at the age of 91. He helped raise nine children, as well as writing an American success story.