Ewing Hunter Harrison was born in Memphis, Tenn., on November 7, 1944, and began his railroad career in 1964 as a 19-year-old rail auto oiler for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway while attending Memphis State University.
CSX shares fell sharply on Thursday when the company announced Harrison was taking an unexpected leave of absence due to a medical condition.
He had joined the company in March of this year.
Railroad executive Hunter Harrison has died.
Harrison's death could put further pressure on CSX's stock on Monday.
Throughout his career, Harrison was adored by retail investors who rewarded his cost-cutting and attention to making the trains run as efficiently as possible by bidding higher on the shares of the railroads he headed.
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Hunter Harrison, the plain-spoken, gruff American who rewrote the Canadian railroading book during his years heading both of this country's largest railways, has died.
His modest start gave no hint that he would eventually serve as the CEO of four major railroads: Chicago-based Illinois Central Railroad, Montreal-based Canadian National Railway, Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway and Jacksonville, Fla., railway CSX Corp.
"Hunter was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and energy in railroading to CSX", the company said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Harrison often worked from home and occasionally used oxygen because of an undisclosed health issue.
In October, CSX unexpectedly postponed its annual shareholders meeting shortly after hiring Harrison confidant Jim Foote to take the No. 2 job after the two turned around Canadian National last decade. "Notwithstanding that loss, the Board is confident that Jim Foote, as acting Chief Executive Officer, and the rest of the CSX team will capitalize on the changes that Hunter has made".
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