Pay Bills

Industry pays tribute to bus historian Bill Luke

William A. Luke, known to his friends as Bill, is remembered as an ambassador and a prominent historian of the bus industry. He has chronicled buses as editor of BUSRide magazine and author of over 15 books under Friendship Publications. Luke died Jan. 23 at the age of 97 in a retirement community in Spokane, Washington, as his latest book neared completion.

Much of his collection, which he spent most of his life collecting, will live on at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Bill Luke in front of an MCI coach.

The loss of an icon

The industry is mourning the loss of an icon, says Stan Holter, a friend of Luke’s and founder of the Busboys Collection Museum in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Bill was truly the most knowledgeable historian in our industry, surely more than anyone before, or ever will be, given all of his experiences and all that he was involved in,” said Holter, who has often contacted Luke with questions about buses. “Bill was a walking encyclopedia of information about our industry with his vast knowledge and experience. Bill had traveled the world to study bus transportation, but his love and passion for the heritage of our industry was really what he seemed to enjoy the most over the past few years. …Bill will truly be remembered as a legend in our industry and will be greatly missed.

In addition to publishing BUSRide magazine for 30 years, Luke was the originator of the Bus Garage Index, the Bus Industry Directory and the BUSRide Bus Maintenance Forums, which promoted bus safety.

Bill Luke
Bill Luke with buses and his friend Stan Holter.

Founder of BUSRide

Luke entered the industry in 1948 when he went to work for Jefferson Lines in Minnesota. He accelerated his collection when he and his wife, Adelene, founded BUSRide in 1965. The publication grew out of a newsletter for a historic association that Luke started with other bus enthusiasts.

The couple sold Friendship Publications, which produced BUSRide and the other publications in 1996, after which Luke continued his historical collecting and intensified his historical writing.

He and his main collaborator, Linda Metler, have compiled and written more than a dozen books, often referred to as “photo archives”, which chronicle the history of various aspects of the industry, focusing primarily on the types and bus brands.

“The research was all in Bill’s brain. He knew so much you could ask him just about anything. For example, what model of bus did you use when you went to such and such a place, and he knew it. He decided when he was 12 that he was going to be a bus driver,” Metler said, adding that the favorite book she’s worked on is her last because it’s filled with personal experiences. typed. He took wonderful notes. He was a good boss.”

Donate your collection

In 2013, Luke donated his massive collection of photographs, publications, tour and travel documentation and other information to a permanent home at the Henry Ford. the William Luke Bus Collection also includes rare uniform patches, tickets, company publications, timetables and route maps for bus routes operating across the United States.

“Henry Ford people are very interested and excited to have the bus industry represented. I’m very happy about that because The Henry Ford is a prestigious organization, in a very accessible location, and has a great research department,” Luke told Bus & Motorcoach News at the time.

The Henry Ford and its famous Greenfield Village have preserved and exhibited the culture of the United States for nearly a century. The museum also houses the Rosa Parks bus, a key artifact of the civil rights movement.

“Certainly the bus industry has been and is a significant contributor to the culture and history” of the United States, Luke said at the time.

Final project

Luke’s latest project is an autobiography he was working on with Metler and Rich Broderhausen.

“It’s quite informative, it speaks a lot about his history in the bus business, as well as his personal history, and all the thousands of people he’s met all over the world. I told him we would have this in his hands, done, for his birthday,” Broderhausen said, Luke’s former pastor and tutor.

Metler and Broderhausen still hopes to have the book finished by February 26, when Luke would have celebrated his 98th birthday.

Bill Luke
Bill Luke in his younger years with buses.

An early love of buses

Luke became a fan of buses and bus travel at a very young age. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, an area that was home to several early bus companies, including Greyhound and National City Lines. As a child, Luke was quickly captivated by the history and activities of these great lines.

“His love of buses was phenomenal. He first fell in love with buses when he was around 6 years old. There was a bus line that ran right past their house, and he became totally fascinated with buses,” Broderhausen said.

During World War II, Luke was a clerk in an engineer battalion. Back home, he began collecting bus memorabilia as he began a career in the bus industry, working for the Jefferson Transportation Co. in Minneapolis and later for Empire Lines in Spokane.

A partner for life

Luke’s partner was his wife, Adelene, who played a key role in founding and running Friendship Publications, the company that published BUSRide magazine and its many books. She died in 2016 at age 88.

Bill Luke
Bill and Adelene Luke

The couple’s well-known bus and coach trade publication covered the people, products and services of this ever-changing industry. After selling BUSRide, the couple traveled the world, visiting transit operations in different countries.

“He has traveled to over 100 countries. There’s a reason some people call him the dean of the bus industry,” Broderhausen said.

“The first time I met Bill he was at a bus show for BUSRide…and he got there by Greyhound. Bill often traveled by bus to events,” said Dave Millhouser, industry historian and former longtime Bus & Motorcoach News columnist, who has reviewed some of Luke’s books, including Bus Sedan. “He was universally loved and respected by the industry. Anyone who loves buses, the bus industry, or even has taken the bus in the last 60 years owes it to Bill.

Publishing and seminars

Sharing an interest in buses, Bill and Adelene began presenting seminars in 1964 to the bus industry on maintenance, safety and other topics. At the height of the program, there were 10 seminars a year, which took place all over the country. In 1965 they started publishing BUSRide.

Adelene’s desire to live out west came true in 1969, when she and Bill moved to Spokane. She worked full-time for their company, while Bill worked part-time in addition to his full-time position at Empire Lines. By 1973 their publishing and seminar business had grown to the point that they both had to devote themselves full-time to the business, which was incorporated as Friendship Publications.

Adelene was named president of the company and always wrote the lead editorial for these issues.

A valuable lesson

A highlight of the couple’s career was the 25th anniversary of BUSRide. They celebrated the occasion with a banquet in Spokane attended by 100 guests, including some from overseas.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Luke’s good friend Jim Lehrer, a bus enthusiast and at the time host of PBS’s “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” according to Adelene’s obituary.

Victor Parra, former president and CEO of the United Motorcoach Association, recalls how Luke welcomed him to the industry and told him how important his role was in supporting private coach operators.

“Bill was one of the first to call me when I joined WBU in 1998 and welcome me to the industry. He explained the powerful relationship nature of the private bus industry,” Parra said. “He encouraged me to meet the members, but also get to know their families and recognize how important they are to the success of every business. This has proven to be a most valuable lesson.”