Robert "Bob" Powell, the founder of USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren, died Oct. 7 at his home in Fort Smith at the age of 87.
Powell, a former Navy aviator, joined what is now ArcBest Corp. in Fort Smith in 1960 and rose through the ranks to become executive vice president of ABF Freight in 1973, a position he held through 1985. In 1983, ArcBest formed a truckload segment, Crawford Produce Inc., which became USA Truck in 1986 as a wholly owned subsidiary.
Powell and his partners bought the company in 1989 for $2.4 million and the assumption of $25 million in debt. The company went public in 1992.
Powell served as CEO from 1988-2007 and was chairman of the board of directors from 2000 until his retirement in 2011. He sold his nearly 1 million share stake in the company in 2013.
“We had the honor of reestablishing our relationship with Mr. Powell over the last several years and recently had him and his family at our corporate office during the USA Truck Founders Day celebration,” USA Truck CEO James Reed said. “It was beautiful to recognize his accomplishments as a wonderful husband, father, industry leader, and visionary founder who gave so much of himself. Mr. Powell touched the lives of countless people; we are honored to have been among them. We offer our condolences and gratitude to the Powell family.”
Powell grew up in Cary, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina. He served as a Navy aviator from 1956-1960 and joined ArcBest as a management trainee in 1960. He was called back to service for two years before rejoining ArcBest in 1962.
The family will have a private graveside service with Powell’s grandsons acting as pallbearers. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Janice Hobbs Powell, as well as several children and grandchildren.
The family asked that memorials be made to the Fort Smith First United Methodist Church or the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith Foundation.