Thirty years ago, Leland Lewis Downey signed papers to become an owner operator. His actions that day set into motion what would one day become, Downey Trucking, Inc. This is our story.
Downey was born in Woodburn, Kentucky on November 5, 1929. The son of a farmer, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1950, during the Korean War era. He served in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in Washington D.C. until 1953, when he marched in the Presidential Inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Upon his return from the Army, he returned to work on the farm of his father, Nathaniel Downey. After years of crop farming, his father decided to go the route of dairy farming. Leland did not want part of it, and instead chose to move his family to Winter Garden, Florida. It is there where he leased his first truck to Alterman Transport Lines in Opa-locka.
In 1971, Downey returned to Kentucky with his family and began working at E.R. Carpenter Company in Russellville, Kentucky. He was well known for his sense of humor and knack for storytelling.
Well-educated through his own pursuits, Downey held strong beliefs in honesty and good work ethic. He was known for saying things like, “One hundred percent of nothing is nothing. Do the math,” and, “Those that do the least, scream the loudest.”
His youngest son, Jim Downey, always looked up to his father and admired his profession. Jim decided at a young age that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
At 14-years-old he wrote an essay entitled, ‘Hope for the Future’.
When Jim Downey turned 18-years-old, he enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served four years as a Reconnaissance Scout, patrolling the Soviet Iron Curtain in Europe.
Upon returning home in 1984, Downey found himself working odd jobs just to get by.
“I took whatever job I could find after leaving the Army,” he said. “Work was hard to come by. I washed trucks for Carpenter where Dad drove. They paid me $5 a truck and $7 a trailer.”
Downey was so desperate for work as a trucker, he drove to Fort Scott, Kansas to try and get a job with Midwestern Distribution. He didn’t get hired because there were hundreds of applicants for forty jobs.
“Times were tough,” said Downey. “I finally got a break with a road test for Dollar General and was hired.”
After his stint with DG, Downey started driving with his father at Carpenter. They drove team from 1984-1986, until Jim bought his first truck for $5000.
“It was junk, but it got me started,” said Downey.
On July 27, 1990, Leland Downey registered his authority under the name Downey Trucking, motor carrier number 277632. Less than 2 years later, on July 5, 1992, Downey was diagnosed with brain cancer.
On September 24, 1992, Leland Downey passed away. Upon his father’s passing, Jim Downey was bestowed rights to MC number 277632. In 1994 he bought his first Kenworth as an owner-operator. Three years later, he bought three more trucks and hired his first drivers. By 2000, the company expanded to 21 trucks.
“I had a wonderful father, and his dream has provided me with a purpose-driven life,” said Downey. “I am happy to be part of its success.”
Many things have changed since 1990, but the founding spirit of this company will always be Leland Downey. Cheers his everlasting legacy, and to the many other fallen veterans and drivers. Happy 30th anniversary! May there be many more years, and miles, ahead.