1996 Laureates

E. Ward King

Edward Ward King known as the "King of Transportation," was born in Surgoinsville, Tennessee, the third of five sons born to Methodist minister John Rutledge king and Margaret Collup.

In 1917, E. Ward King volunteered to serve his country in the First World War. By then he had experience in transportation related jobs and soon found himself signed on as a private in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. E. Ward served in France and Germany as a truck driver and mechanic.

E. Ward and Myrtle Mae Charlton married in 1922, and began a family that was to include three sons and a daughter. They moved to Kingsport in 1925 and opened King Motor Company, a franchise for Studebaker automobiles.

King's entrepreneurial spirit led him "from bankruptcy in the depression to begin a business of a kind not tried before, on money borrowed against his household furniture. He succeeded, and in the process built that filled a need and helped the entire region of the country to prosper." From his dining room table he formed a trucking company with partners Roy Moore and Tyson Steele in 1932. By 1939, Mason & Dixon became family owned with E. Ward serving as president until 1957, when he became Chairman of the Board.

Continuing with his great entrepreneurial spirit, King opened the following businesses in the mid to late 40's: The Motor Sales Company, a dealership for White-truck-tractors; Holston Auto Supply; and Cherokee Boat Company, a dealership for Chris-Craft Boats, marine parts and service.

As the transportation businesses prospered, King became very much aware that there was virtually no airline service within the state of Tennessee. Thus was born Southeast Airlines with its' inaugural flight in February 1957. Since the airline never received Civil Aeronautics Board approval to interchange mail and passengers with other airlines, Southeast was forced to cease operations in 1959.

Mason & Dixon continued to grow extending its authority by applications and through the purchase of several motor carrier operations. Prior to the sale, the joint companies operated eighty-seven terminals, with 4,500 employees, 4,700 pieces of equipment and revenues totaling $173 million. Mason & Dixon ranked 16th in size among 15,000 companies and was the largest privately held motor carrier in the United States.

Crown Enterprises, Inc., a new corporation King put together in 1957, evolved to eight divisions including building and purchasing of lease properties, automobile leasing, data processing services, building supplies, heating and cooling services, and real estate development. The Mason Dixon complex, known now as Stone East and Crown Colony, a concept King envisioned as the future trend in residential communities, serve as examples of Crown Enterprises' local projects.

E. Ward King's leadership extended to professional and community organizations. He served on the board of American Trucking Association, as president of the Tennessee Motor Transport Association, as chairman of the board of Kingsport National Bank from 1961-67, and as director of the Transport Insurance Company, Dallas, Texas. He was honored with the American Legion "Distinguished Service Award" and the Tennessee Junior Chamber of Commerce "Pioneer of the Future" award.

Committed to quality education, E. Ward supported many area colleges and universities. He served as a member of the delegation of industrialists who presented the need for ETSU Medical School to the states governor, donated a Convair 240 aircraft to the University of Tennessee's athletic department, gave the challenge gift making possible Emory and Henry's John Rutledge King Health and Physical Education Center, the challenge gift funding the E. Ward King Aquatic Center at Hiwassee College, and funded the E.Ward King Auditorium at King College. In addition, King gave sustaining support to Emory and Vanderbilt universities, and Lees-McRae, Salem, Milligan and Tennessee Wesleyan colleges. E. Ward shared his love and appreciation for his Methodist roots, serving in the long-term support of Methodist conference schools and activities as a Methodist Conference Trustee.

Honored as one of Kingsport's Treasures, E. Ward King was remembered; "Though a man of tremendous influence, King liked to do things behind the scenes whenever possible. There was hardly a major regional or local call he did not answer. There was hardly a movement for improvement or advancement, political, social or educational, that he did not assist, all capturing his love for making East Tennessee a better place for his fellow man. Great men die but E. Ward King's influence and positive force for Kingsport lives on and on… for us to treasure through many generations."