Floyd Withers “Sonny” Merryman Jr. got his first sales experience with yellow school buses in the 1950s.
RUSTBURG, Va. — Sonny Merryman, founder of the longtime Virginia school bus dealership that bears his name, died on Saturday at age 89.
Floyd Withers “Sonny” Merryman Jr., born in Rustburg in 1924, got his first sales experience with yellow school buses in the 1950s when his father became ill and asked Merryman to assist him in his business as a sales representative for Smith-Moore Body Co. — a statewide dealer of mostly trailers, dump bodies and specialized transportation equipment.
Merryman continued working in trailer and school bus sales through the late ’50s and early to mid-‘60s. In 1967, he caught his “big break” when Thomas Built Buses chose him as its new dealer for Virginia. That year, Merryman and his wife, Frances Taylor “Lou” Merryman, founded a small trailer equipment and bus dealership called Sonny Merryman Inc.
Over the following decades, the dealership grew immensely. Including the Lynchburg-area corporate headquarters, where Merryman worked daily until recently, the company has three locations and more than 125 employees in Virginia.
In 2002, the Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation recognized Merryman for a lifetime of contributions to public education and promoting school bus safety by inducting him into the organization's Hall of Fame.
Merryman provided hundreds of young Virginians with scholarship assistance, and he contributed to numerous youth development organizations and other causes. He was also a longtime supporter of Virginia Tech, which awarded him its Ruffner Medal in 2006 for his contributions and service to the university.
To read Merryman’s full obituary, go here.