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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with L. Worth Harris, June 11, 1980. Interview H-0164. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Choosing to sell rather than merge

Harris recalls his decision to sell his company. Struggling to compete with larger shippers, he decided around 1965 that he would rather leave the business that surrender it to a merger.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with L. Worth Harris, June 11, 1980. Interview H-0164. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
Tell me a little bit about the growth of the company in the 1930's, in terms of the number of trucks or however you all measured that.
L. WORTH HARRIS:
Later on we kept adding trucks as we could. We went through the War; we were still a small company, but at that time I guess we had. . . . You define a tractor and trailer as two pieces of equipment. Our tractors, trailers, pickups, and trucks, I guess we got up to 300 and some pieces.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That was by about the time of World War II?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
That was just before the end of World War II. We were real busy all during the War and worked awfully hard. The first nice vacation I had in my life was just immediately after the War. I went to Europe for about three months. I had a well-trained crew of executives, and business went on just as well as it did when I was here. But later on I found out that we had to really and truly merge. This is the first thought I had about merging. In fact, I had been approached by one company that I liked an awful lot. It had reached the point that I had to do some merging, or I had to go in debt an awful lot for my company. So we got talking about it, and my oldest son had graduated from college and he had been with the company about five or six years. I had him in New York-that was more problems than any other place-for about a year. But he finally decided that that wasn't the career for him for the rest of his life. He never could have owned the company. So I had an Annheuser-Busch distributorship in Raleigh, North Carolina. I've had it thirty years, so that was way back then, and my manager was eighty-one years of age. And my son, Larry, wanted to know if he couldn't go down and manage that. So we, of course, let him do it. I'm a great believer, if you're not happy in your work, well, you're not going to do well at it anyway. But he worked his heart out. He was real interested in it. But he wanted a business that he could own someday. So I got to studying about it, and really and truly, I was the first company that sold. Back then you couldn't hardly buy a trucking company. Everybody wanted to get in the trucking business, and the trucking business was doing well. So I decided that since my other son had already told me that he wasn't interested in the trucking business, why should I stay with it if they weren't going to be interested in it later on? So I decided to sell it, and of course didn't have any problem, sold it real quick. But I had made up my mind that I had to get out of it or borrow an awful lot of money and expand myself, or do a lot of merging, so I just . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
What were the conditions in the industry that brought that about?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
We just found out that we couldn't compete with these great big carriers. I just was convinced in the early stages that these big carriers. . . . For instance, carriers like Associated Transport at that time, merged from Horton Motor Lines, could pick up freight in New York going just everywhere, Chicago, anywhere else. And ours was limited to North and South Carolina and New York. So we just decided we couldn't compete with them unless we got an awful lot bigger, and we'd have to open up also in the Chicago territory to take care of a lot of big customers. So we decided then at that time, in place of merging. . . . Of course, our family owned all the stock, and my company never was any outstanding stock, so we decided we'd rather sell as to get tangled up with some other company.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When was that?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
That was '65 when I sold out.