-  Image: Canva

Image: Canva

John Alfred Elliott Sr., a longtime board member of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), former CEO of First Student, and School Bus Fleet's 2007 Contractor of the Year, passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 2 in Illinois. He was 81.

Born in Chicago Heights in 1942, he graduated from Bloom High School before excelling at Western Illinois University. There he joined the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity while earning a bachelor's degree in social studies. That's also where he met his future wife, Lillian, or "Lilli-Jo" as he called her. His first career as an educator saw him teaching history in junior and high school, as well as serving as assistant to the superintendent.

According to his obituary, Elliott left teaching but stayed close to education in the school transportation industry. In 1974, he was appointed president of Kankakee Auto Leasing, but eventually went on to be senior vice president of Ryder Student Transportation, president of First Student, CEO of Durham School Services, and "most recently as CEO Emeritus, and active consultant, in his 22nd year with National Express Group LLC."

"He was a recognized icon in the transportation industry as leader of the two largest student transportation companies in North America," the obituary stated. "He served on the board of the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) for more than 20 years, and received many accolades for his work, including the NSTA Hall of Fame Award in 2006, School Bus Fleet Contractor of the Year in 2007, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from National Express Group PLC in 2014. He was proud to be the first African-American to be appointed CEO of a publicly traded school bus corporation in North America."

In a LinkedIn post, NSTA offered its remembrance of Elliott, saying: "NSTA mourns the passing of John Elliott Sr., CEO Emeritus of National Express, student transportation icon, and longstanding member of the NSTA Board of Directors. John dedicated over 50 years of his life to student transportation, and he left an indelible mark in the field."

Curt Macysyn, NSTA's executive director, offered his own condolences to John Elliott Jr. and the entire Elliott family.

"In an industry as competitive as student transportation, everyone we've encountered has had the same reaction to this sad news," said Macysyn. "To a person, everyone feels a great loss, not only for the level of expertise and professionalism that Mr. Elliott brought to student transportation, but on a personal level too. He connected with so many folks, and left an indelible mark on their careers. John Elliott Sr. was truly an industry icon, and he will be missed."

Elliott also served on the national board of directors for Canine Companions for Independence for 22 years. His family has asked that donations be made to that organization in lieu of flowers.

Elliott was preceded in death by his wife, his siblings Bernice Jackson and Luella Smith Douglas, and his parents, William Elliott and Violet Ligons Elliott. He is survived by his son, John A. Elliott; three grandsons, siblings Roger Elliott, Betty Cole, William Elliott, and Marian Elliott, as well as cousins, nieces, and nephews.


About the author
Wes Platt

Wes Platt

Executive Editor

Wes Platt joined Bobit in 2021 as executive editor of School Bus Fleet Magazine. He writes and edits content about student transportation, school bus manufacturers and equipment, legislative issues, maintenance, fleet contracting, and school transportation technology - from classic yellow diesel buses to the latest EPA-funded electric, propane, and CNG vehicles.

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