HomePeopleIndustry Trailblazer Elliott, CEO Emeritus of National Express, Dies Unexpectedly

Industry Trailblazer Elliott, CEO Emeritus of National Express, Dies Unexpectedly

National Express announced that former Durham School Services CEO John Elliott, Sr. died suddenly on Dec. 2. He was 81.

John Elliott, Sr.

Elliott is the first African American to be appointed CEO by a publicly traded school bus contractor and led two of the largest transportation companies in North America. He was named president of the newly named First Student in 2000 and soon thereafter joined National Express and was named president and eventually CEO.

National Express said in a statement posted on Linkedin Tuesday that he will “be dearly missed.”

“For over 22 years, John contributed more than words can express to our company. As a well-respected leader, John’s presence would light up a room and when he spoke, you were drawn to listen,” the post states. “As he walked through the office, John enjoyed meeting with team members, letting them know that they were seen, heard, and most of all, valued. He was an endearing man, who embodied tenacity, charisma, and intellect.

“It was a great honor to have him represent our organization, and we will forever remember his presence and guidance in making the world a much better place,” it continued.

Elliott held the title CEO emeritus at National Express at the time of his death.

He was inducted into the National School Transportation Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and served on the board of directors for 20 years. School Bus Fleet named him Contractor of the Year in 2007, and National Express gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.

Following a career as a teacher and assistant superintendent in Kankakee, Illinois, Elliott transitioned to the trucking sector in 1972 when he joined KAL Leasing. He became president by 1974. By 1986, the company was acquired by Ryder Truck, and Elliott began learning the school bus industry as western region general manager of Ryder Student Transportation. Wthin seven years, he became senior vice president and general manager for the entire company.

After FirstGroup plc acquired Ryder Student Transportation in 1999, Elliott was chief operating officer in addition to president of the new First Student.

Elliott moved to National Express in late 2000 to serve as president of Durham Transportation and then the renamed Durham School Services. He added the title of president and chief executive officer in 2004. In 2010, he was named interim CEO for National Express Group and served in that capacity for a year and a half.

Son John Elliott, Jr., is currently the senior vice president of customer operations at National Express.

In addition to John, Jr. (Sophy), Elliott is survived by grandsons Grant, Clark and Jack; siblings Roger Elliott, Betty (Clifton) Cole, William Elliott, and Marian Elliott; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by wife of 57 years (Lillian) Joann Amos, who he affectionately called “Lilli-Jo.”

Related: Elliott to Stay on at National Express in Customer, Employee Relations Role
Related: Benish Hall of Fame Induction Highlights NSTA Annual Awards
Related: NSTA: The Bus Stop with Tony Corpin, Publisher, School Transportation News

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