RICHMOND, Va. — Hays Thomas Watkins, former chairman and CEO of CSX Transportation, who helped guide the merger that created the Class I before leading it into the modern era, died in Richmond, Va., on Friday, July 29. He was 96 years old.
Watkins got his start on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in 1949 as an analyst and rose through the management ranks quickly. He was appointed vice president of finance for both C&O and Baltimore & Ohio in 1964 and became president and CEO of the combined railroads in 1971. In 1975, C&O and B&O became Chessie System and Watkins was named chairman, president and CEO.
In 1980, Watkins helped guide Chessie with its merger with Seaboard Coast Line, which would create CSX. He became president and co-CEO before becoming chairman and CEO in 1982. Watkins retired in 1991.
“The CSX family mourns the loss of Hays T. Watkins, former president and CEO of CSX Transportation,” the railroad said in a statement. “With integrity and honesty, Hays saw CSX through a tumultuous period – successfully negotiating a merger with the Chessie System and introducing multimodal transportation to make us one of the world’s premier transport companies. He will be dearly missed.”
Watkins is survived by his wife Betty, one son, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.