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In Loving Memory of Gary Wilson


Gary L. Wilson

March 4, 1948 – August 31, 2020

As many of you have no doubt learned, our founder and president, Gary Wilson, passed away last Monday afternoon.

Gary was bright, witty, humble and (obviously) a great businessman.  He was able to build an immediate rapport with the people around him whether he was in a drivers’ room, meeting with a group of drivers or in a board room, meeting with a group of Fortune 500 executives.

If you ever met Gary, you immediately liked him.   If you knew him well, you loved him.  He treated everyone fairly and made all that he met feel important.  His loss creates a void for his friends and family that cannot be filled and leaves us with memories that will never be forgotten.  I know that I am a better person for having the blessing of getting to know and work with him.

But we are fortunate that Gary was also very intentional in his planning and making provisions for FirstFleet to remain a family-owned company after his passing.  Because of that, on a day-to-day basis, you won’t see any effect on our operations.

We express our deepest condolences to his wife, Mary Beth, and his family.  Rest in peace Gary, my friend.  We will do our best to carry on the example you left for us.



Some of you have heard the following story and history of FirstFleet.  I told it at our driver trainers’ meetings this year.  But for those who have not, it is reprinted below:

40 years ago, in 1980, the trucking industry was deregulated by the federal government.  Prior to that, the government set rates and basically made sure everybody made money. Losing the protection of regulation made it the most turbulent time in trucking history. 


It made for VERY tough economic conditions!  Anybody could get into the industry and almost everybody did.  Thousands of new trucking companies started up and thousands more, both new and old, went out of business.


I met Gary Wilson during this tough time and a couple of years later I went to work for him.  In the spring of ’86 we found out our company was being sold and we were both going to be out of a job.


Picture this for a minute. He was 38 years old, with a wife and 3 teenage kids depending on him – 2 of which were sophomores in high school and would be heading to college soon. It was personally a very stressful time for him, as you can imagine.


Most of us in that situation would have just tried to find the best job they could as soon as they could!  Some of us (like me!) did.


Absolutely NOBODY except Gary thought the world needed another trucking company.


Gary started FirstFleet out of his house.  He had no trucks, no trailers, no drivers, no locations, no employees, and no customers.

He actually had one employee – himself – but he wasn’t getting paid!


But he started selling a few deals here and there – and eventually was able to make enough money to make ends meet.  He did all the selling, dispatching, purchasing – even put decals and fuel tax permits on the trucks.   And everything he didn’t do himself, things like billing and payroll, paying bills, licenses and taxes – his wife Mary Beth did.


He would often tell the story of the first days after the Cleveland TN location began.  He got a hotel room and parked the trucks in the parking lot at the hotel. He slept in his clothes because every hour or so through the night drivers would knock on his door to pick up their trip paperwork!


The first few trucks he got, he had to personally sign for, because the company had no credit.  Nobody handed him a thing.  He wasn’t born rich.   He didn’t have a lot of rich investors.  But he wasn’t afraid of hard work.


Over the next 34 years, through a LOT of hard work by Gary and others, including all of you here today, FirstFleet now has:

-       Over 100 locations

-       Almost 3000 trucks

-       Around 10,000 trailers

-       Covers all 48 states

-       Most importantly, counting all our families, provides for around 8,000 people!!!!




I tell you this story for 2 reasons:

1.   Because I’m so VERY proud of Gary and of FirstFleet – both how it got started and what it has become.

2.   Because we talk a lot in the company about our culture and how we’re a big family.  How it’s important for us to treat everyone fairly and do the right thing.


That culture all started with Gary Wilson and what he wanted FirstFleet to be.  He wasn’t overly concerned whether we got to be a big company or not.  He just wanted to have a company that gave great service to our customers and treated our customers, vendors and employees right.  He knew that if we did that, it would be a place that good people would want to come to work, and that good customers would want to do business with.   He knew if we did that everything else would take care of itself.


His courageous decision 34 years ago had a big impact on the people in this room today.  It’s our responsibility to continue these values and this culture for the next 34 years and beyond.


Thank you.



Posted in: Employees