The motorcoach and bus community is mourning the loss of industry leaders Robert “Eric” Annett, Clarence Edward, William Gaines and Sean Hughes. The four are being remembered for their passion for the motorcoach business and their advocacy for the industry.
Robert “Eric” Annett
Robert “Eric” Annett of Sebring, Florida, died Feb. 15 at the age of 78 after complications from a long battle with dystonia.
He founded Annett Bus Lines with his wife, Norma Jean, in 1976. Starting with just one bus, over the next 25 years they grew it into one of the largest motorcoach companies in Florida, with multiple locations throughout the state. They retired in 2001 and moved the company to second-generation ownership with sons David and Brian at the helm.
When Annett started his tour and charter bus company, the industry was regulated and no private carriers existed. He was successful in gaining operating authority in five Florida counties.
Annett served on the board of directors for the American Bus Association and was a founding member of the Florida Motorcoach Association. He served on the board of directors for the National Motorcoach Marketing Network. Considered a leader in the industry, his innovative practices led to standards common in the bus industry today.
His son Brian Annett followed in his footsteps as an industry leader. The younger Annett served on the United Motorcoach Association board for 12 years, becoming one of the organization’s youngest board chairs.
“My mom and dad came from nothing in the bus world, saw a public need and filled it,” Brian Annett shared with Bus & Motorcoach News as he looked back on his UMA tenure. “Our company is a true American dream, and it lives on today providing service to a traveling public across all of Florida.”
Clarence Edward Douglas
Clarence Edward “Doug” Douglas, 83, of Norge, Virginia, died Feb. 28. He served the Virginia Motorcoach Association as a lobbyist from 1991 to 2020. During his tenure with VMA, he also served at one point as Executive Director.
“We were proud to be represented by him and better for his service,” VMA wrote in a Facebook tribute.
Before his service to the VMA, Douglas had a long career in public service. He served as Lead Advance for President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Director of Operations for the 1983 G-7 Summit of Industrialized Nations in Williamsburg, Virginia. Douglas served 40 years as an Executive Director and lobbyist for the Virginia Legislature.
William Gaines died Feb. 14 at age 86. He was the founder and owner of Gaines Bus Service, and a longtime member of the Virginia Motorcoach Association.
Gaines, who was also called Boy-Boy by lifelong friends, was born in Nansemond County to Joseph Lee Gaines Sr. and Laura Rountree Gaines on May 23, 1935. Gaines was a lifelong resident of the Pughsville community of Chesapeake, Virginia.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and retired as a general foreman electrician from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard after 38 years of service. He was the president and owner of Gaines Bus Service from 1966 until 2017.
Sean Hughes, a lobbyist and bus company executive who served as president of the Bus Association of New Jersey, died Feb. 18, at age 44.
Hughes worked at MWW, a public affairs firm, before becoming vice president of government affairs at Coach USA.
“He didn’t just head up Coach USA Public Affairs,” Coach USA said in a LinkedIn post. “He was a force for the whole industry, no more so than during these pandemic years when he fought tirelessly to benefit motor coach operators across the U.S. His passion, professionalism, knowledge and determination were second to none, and he will be sadly missed by all of us at Coach USA and many more across our industry.”
In 2021, Hughes was named a “Top Lobbyist” by the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics.
“He exemplified the criteria used for that award, whose winners must be innovative and highly regarded by their colleagues, demonstrate legislative accomplishments, adhere to the highest ethical standards and give back to their community,” BANJ wrote in a press release announcing his passing. “Sean’s generous nature and commitment to hard work were remarkable, and led him to have a lasting impact in both his professional and personal endeavors.”
Hughes’ efforts as an advocate and a leader were critical to helping the private bus industry navigate the extraordinary challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Sean was a huge advocate for the industry, tirelessly working on motorcoach business concerns,” the Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association shared in a Facebook post. “Sean served on the GNJMA Legislative Committee. His contributions and guidance will be sorely missed.”