Ex-CSX CEO Hays Watkins Dies

Former Chessie System and CSX CEO Hays T. Watkins Jr. has died. He was 96.

Watkins was a Kentucky native who oversaw the merger of the Chessie and Seaboard Coast Line into CSX.

Hays T. Watkins

While serving as chairman of the Chessie, Watkins in 1978 approached Seaboard CEO Prime F. Osborn about a merger.

The two agreed on a deal in which each man would serve as co-CEO of the newly formed company. The board of directors and top management team was split 50-50 between former Chessie and Seaboard members.

“That,” Watkins would say later, “is why we had our 50/50 merger; Prime and I agreed on everything, and if the two of us didn’t agree, we didn’t do it.”

Osborn retired two years after the merger, leaving Watkins as the sole CSX CEO.

Watkins retired in 1991, bringing to an end a 40-year railroad career that also included serving as an executive of the Chesapeake & Ohio where he was vice president-finance and later, president and CEO.

During his time at C&O, Watkins diversified the railroad by buying a gas company as a hedge against rising fuel costs, a pipeline company and a barge line.

He oversaw the formation of Sea-Land Service, a trucking company that also transported shipping containers.

Born in Fern Creek, Kentucky, near Louisville, Watkins earned a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green Business University (now Western Kentucky University) in 1947 and a master’s degree from Northwestern University in 1948.

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