Robert Earl Bryant

Published 7:35 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

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Robert Earl Bryant

Robert Earl Bryant, 87, passed away on May 8, at his home in New Canton, with his family at his side. He was born on Jan. 4, 1935 in Arvonia and graduated from Marshall District High School in Buckingham County. On June 26, 1955, he married his high school sweetheart, Annie Kate Jones.

At age 18, Robert, known as Bob to his railroad associates, went to work for the C&O Railway in Richmond as a Messenger Boy and advanced in the company through of a succession of positions with increasing responsibility, working in cities such as Columbia, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia until finally retiring as a Market Manager in Baltimore for CSX after almost 35 years of service.

After retiring, Robert moved back to Buckingham County and, with Annie, founded the Buckingham Branch Railroad in 1988. He founded the BB out of his love of railroading and the desire to continue freight service to his home county of Buckingham and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Under his guidance, the BB grew from a tiny 17.3 mile long railroad with two employees to its size today of 280 miles of track with 80 employees, now the largest short line railroad in Virginia.

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In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution honoring Robert and Annie for starting and developing the Buckingham Branch Railroad and their exceptional service to the Commonwealth by restoring rail lines, strengthening transportation infrastructure and doing so with honesty, integrity and strength of character.

Robert’s love of railroading extended well beyond the Buckingham Branch to his being a founding member and longtime President of the Virginia Railroad Association, a Fellow in the Virginia Rail Policy Institute and a member of both the Old Dominion Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and the C&O Historical Society.

Robert also loved farming. He loved being out on the land, caring for the pastures, working the hayfields and taking care of his small herd of Angus cattle. He was a committed traditional farmer and cared deeply for the health of his farm and the ecosystem that supported it. He was an avid gardener and each year his garden provided a bounty of vegetables for family and friends. One of his passions was making sorghum syrup (molasses) and each year it would become a community project at harvesting time. After pressing and cooking the sorghum, he would bottle it and give it away to family, friends and local community.

Robert was a person of deep integrity and believed strongly in responsibility to oneself, family, friends, community and church. His strong character combined with his deep curiosity and love of learning inspired everyone he came in contact with. A very creative person, Robert loved music, especially singing and playing piano and guitar. He was well known for his sense of humor and was quick to make a joke or offer an amusing comment. He was also an inventor who was always finding easier and better ways to do things and he could fix anything.

Central to Robert’s life was his Christian faith and his church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where he was a Deacon.

Robert was preceded in death by his father, Richard Lewis Bryant Sr.; his mother, Verna Stinson Bryant; brothers, Thomas William Bryant and Richard Lewis Bryant Jr. and sister, Kathleen Bryant Jones.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Annie Jones Bryant; children, Robert Mark Bryant and Lois Bryant Frank (Tom); four grandchildren, Kyle Bryant Frank, George Connor Frank, Hanna Frank Fountain (Jeff) and Audrey Marie Frank; great grandson, Robert Bryant “Bo” Fountain; brothers, Joseph Cary Bryant and Kenneth Melvin Bryant and sister, Audrey Bryant Maxey.

A funeral service will be held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 6277 Cartersville Rd., New Canton, on Monday, May 16, at 2 p.m., followed by committal in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends and relatives at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Sunday, May 15 from 4 to 5 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 6277 Cartersville Road, New Canton, VA 23123.