Norfolk Southern’s second chairman, Arnold B. McKinnon, died May 18 in Washington D.C. A resident of Norfolk, Va., he was 81. McKinnon “leaves a 50-year legacy of railroad leadership that will not be duplicated or forgotten,” NS said in an announcement.
McKinnon, NS chief executive officer from 1987 to 1992, “was among the first to envision the railroad as an integral link in the global logistics chain,” NS noted. “Under his guidance, NS increased productivity and controlled costs, launched the Thoroughbred quality improvement process, and began the development of managers who today are the railroad’s leaders.
McKinnon accepted the modern Norfolk Southern’s first Harriman Gold Medal Award for employee safety. “It marked the beginning of a commitment to safety that has seen NS employees earn an unequaled 19 consecutive Harriman awards as the safest workers in the rail industry.”
(NS has just received its 20th consecutive Harriman Gold award.)
After his retirement as CEO, McKinnon continued service on NS’s board of directors until 2000, helping guide the company through the early stages of the Conrail transaction that increased the railroad’s size by half and positioned it for long-term growth. In 2007, NS named its headquarters building in Norfolk in his honor.
“So much of what Norfolk Southern is today, we owe to Arnold,” said Wick Moorman, NS’s fourth CEO. (Moorman succeeded David R. Goode in 2006, who succeeded McKinnon in 1992.) “Many of his ideas became part of our guiding principles. He was, quite simply, a remarkable railroader and a wonderful person. We share in his family’s loss, and we understand how much better we are for having known him.”
“Arnold was a great leader for the company at a crucial time in its history and built for us a strong tradition of leadership in the community and in the nation,” said Goode. “He was a great friend to all of us who served with him.”
McKinnon was born in Goldsboro, N.C., in 1927. He joined NS predecessor Southern Railway in 1951 as a law assistant. Among other positions, he was named vice president law in 1971 and executive vice president law and finance in 1981. When Southern consolidated with Norfolk & Western Railway to form Norfolk Southern Corp. in 1982, McKinnon was named executive vice president marketing. In 1987, he was named chairman, president, and CEO. “He developed the company’s new marketing structure and refined the concept of ‘the railroad as a service organization,’ a critical distinction since partial deregulation of the industry had just gone into effect,” NS said.