Albert "Buddy" Luce Jr. is seen here with Blue Bird No. 1, the company’s first steel-body school bus. Photo by Kevin Neafie

Albert "Buddy" Luce Jr. is seen here with Blue Bird No. 1, the company’s first steel-body school bus. Photo by Kevin Neafie

MACON, Ga. — Albert Laurence "Buddy" Luce Jr., an integral figure in the history of Blue Bird, died at his home in Macon on Jan. 11. He was 94.

Luce was the son of Albert Luce Sr., who built his first bus in 1927. Luce Sr.’s all-steel bus bodies replaced the wooden construction that was standard at the time and launched the Blue Bird Body Co.

Buddy Luce was born in 1922 in Fort Valley, Georgia, which became the location of Blue Bird’s headquarters.

During World War II, Luce served as an Air Force pilot. After the end of the war in 1945, he returned to Fort Valley to take the reins of Blue Bird from his father, who retired from the company in the 1950s.

Luce led Blue Bird as president and CEO for several decades. According to his obituary, during Luce’s tenure the company became the largest manufacturer of school buses in North America and distributed school and city buses in 54 foreign countries.

Buddy Luce retired from Blue Bird in 1992, when the family business was sold. He maintained a connection with Blue Bird’s leadership, who would often consult with him.

For a number of years, Luce also held on to a key piece of the company’s history: Blue Bird No. 1, the company’s first steel-body school bus. Then in 2008, he donated the flagship bus to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

“Donating Blue Bird No. 1 to The Henry Ford at this time is meaningful to me for many reasons,” Luce said at the time. “[2007] was the 80th anniversary of Blue Bird … and I feel this is a great way to acknowledge that milestone.”

A memorial service for Luce was held on Saturday at the Fort Valley United Methodist Church.

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