Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with L. Worth Harris, June 11, 1980. Interview H-0164. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Charlotte becomes a trucking hub

Charlotte became a trucking center at mid-century, Harris recalls. It thrived on the presence of the textile industry, was a good location for both north- and southbound shipping, and enjoyed a good road system.

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

Can you speculate at all about why it was that Charlotte became sort of a center for trucking during this time?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
Yes, sir. It was hard for people to believe all over the country, but Charlotte was the spot for the trucking industry, and even, I think, the largest, really, at one time. There was just everything in the world hauled north- and south-bound, and, of course, as I said before, this has to be a balanced operation. So I made up my mind to begin with, when I started that little local business, that Charlotte was the place for the trucking industry.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why was that?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
I guess the textile industry here had an awful lot to do with it, but just because there's so much industry in this area.
ALLEN TULLOS:
It would look like some people would have moved, say, down to Greenville, South Carolina. What kept things from developing there?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
It was just not as good, but real good there. I'm talking about this area. Of course, we had a terminal in Greenville, South Carolina, just the same as we had here in Charlotte. And the Greenville area was a great area for us, because I guess we pulled more freight north-bound out of that area than we did out of the Charlotte area, really. Textiles, I'm sure that's right.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How early was it that you had a terminal in Greenville?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
We opened up a terminal in Greenville just a very short while after we started. The first terminal was in New York. The second terminal was in Greenville; I'm sure it was. And then we opened a terminal in Baltimore, because we were getting right much freight there; one in Philadelphia; one over in New Jersey. Greenville, though, was one of the first ones. Then we finally opened a terminal in Burlington. So our traffic was mostly between Greenville and Boston. Now we did not operate into Boston, no further than New York, but we had connections in New York that picked up our trailers and took them right on in to Interline.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there any sort of state laws or advantages in being in North Carolina as opposed to South Carolina, to have your headquarters operation? Would that have entered into it at all to make people come to Charlotte?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
I don't think so. We could have had our headquarters in Greenville, I guess, as well as Charlotte. We really wouldn't have thought about that, because Charlotte had so many different accounts south-bound and everything else; this was the place. But talking about the law, we started in business over-the-road in '33, and 1935 is when the trucking industry was regulated. And we filed our application to operate in the territory that we'd been operating in, and had no difficulty getting it. In fact, the grandfather rights is how the trucking industry got their operating authority. And now, of course, there's a great big squabble about deregulation, but the operating authority for the trucking companies is what made the trucking industry. And I'd hate to think about it when it's not regulated.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Yes, Mr. Outlaw had that same feeling about it all. In the late twenties there was a governor here from Charlotte, Cameron Morrison, who was known for building lots of roads, among other things. Would that have had any effect upon the emergence soon after that of the trucking industry, the fact that there had been this good roads movement here, and there wasn't one yet in, say, South Carolina or other states?
L. WORTH HARRIS:
Good roads certainly had a lot to do with it; there's no question about that. The governor was a mighty fine man; I knew him, of course.