Donor Spotlight: Charles E. Atchison, Sr. and Charlita Atchison Moss, Atchison Transportation Services, Inc.

Donor Spotlight: Charles E. Atchison, Sr. and Charlita Atchison Moss, Atchison Transportation Services, Inc.

By Jeremy Handel

Never Give Up Attitude Drives Success for Atchisons

Charles Atchison and Charlita Atchison Moss
Charles Atchison and Charlita Atchison Moss

Hard work and perseverance were two key attributes of Charles Atchison’s success in building a transportation empire. They’re also two traits that the Atchison family encourages young students at SMC to use in pursuing their own dreams.

In 1949, Charles Atchison set out to chase his dream of building a successful business. With one car, he started a small taxicab service in the Upstate. Building a thriving business is never easy. For an African American man in the 1950s south, it was even more of a challenge.

But Charles was determined, and his drive and ambition to overcome obstacles helped him grow his one-car operation into one of the largest land transportation businesses in the state today. Now, Atchison Transportation Services boasts a fleet of motor coaches, shuttle buses, limousines, and other vehicles providing transportation to individuals, groups, and businesses across the state.

Atchison’s granddaughter, Charlita Atchison Moss, joined the family business in 1995 and now serves as the Chief Operating Officer.

“It was very difficult for my grandfather in the early days,” she said of the company’s origins. “Loans, access to capital, and banking relationships were hard to come by. Fortunately, there were people in the community willing to help and mentor.”

Atchison Moss credits a well-known community businessman for providing her grandfather with that mentorship and assistance, Steve Ashcraft, long-time owner of Craft’s Drug Stores. She said the support and direction he provided helped build Atchison’s reputation and provide access to more opportunities.

As his business continued to grow and succeed, Atchison also turned his attention to his community and how he could, in turn, give back and help others. One of the beneficiaries of that philanthropic focus has been Spartanburg Methodist College.

The Atchison family have been long-time donors to the school, helping open doors for others who face obstacles to their own success. Atchison Moss says their decision to support the school grew out of a relationship the elder Atchison developed with a former president of the College – Dr. Charles Teague.

Through that growing friendship, Dr. Teague developed a deep respect for Atchison and saw the value he could provide to the College on a higher level. He invited Atchison to join the Board of Trustees in 2000.

She also credits the family’s Methodist faith as having drawn them to the mission of SMC.

“Our family is of the Christian Methodist faith, and we are all members of Silver Hill Memorial United Methodist Church in Spartanburg,” she said. “This connection further enlightened our motivation to volunteer and get connected with Spartanburg Methodist College.”

The Atchisons also supported SMC’s mission to provide all students with the opportunity to get a college education.

“SMC is a local college serving a diverse group of students who may not be ready for a larger college or who cannot afford one,” Atchison Moss said. “It is important that every student who wishes to pursue higher education has that chance. SMC offers that access and opportunity.”

To continue the family’s legacy of supporting SMC, Atchison Moss now serves on the Board of Trustees, providing her insight and direction to the College’s mission. She said it’s important to carry on their family legacy with SMC and to help pave the way for more students to benefit from a college education.

Outside of SMC, the family focuses philanthropic efforts on a number of entities that also work to provide opportunities to the youth of Spartanburg. They donate to other local colleges, the Boys and Girls Club, Brothers Restoring Urban Hope (BRUH), Bloom Upstate, and several other youth success agencies.

For them it’s about giving others the kind of support that Ashcraft afforded Atchison in his early days and planting the seed of hope and success in the next generation.

The family has been recognized for their efforts and is highly respected for their accomplishments. In addition to SMC’s Board, Atchison Moss has served on numerous boards in the Upstate, including Ten at the Top, the American Red Cross, the Spartanburg Community College Foundation, and Oakbrook Preparatory School.

The elder Atchison has also served numerous organizations and has received countless accolades for both his business and his philanthropic work. He received the Legendary Businessman of the Year award from the Minority Economic Development Institute, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Black Excellence Community Gala, the Legacy Award from the Motorcoach Association of South Carolina, and Minority Business Person of the Year from the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce among others.

Atchison Transportation Services continues to face and overcome challenges associated with the COVID pandemic, which had a severe impact on the company and on transportation in general. Atchison Moss said the company lost more than 90% of its business early in the pandemic, but they have been able to survive and claw their way back in an industry that saw more than half of its companies shut down.

Through it all, their commitment to SMC has continued. Atchison Moss said they want to continue to give opportunities to those seeking higher education. When asked what advice she’d give students for their future success, it was all about that hard work and perseverance.

“Study hard, do well and treat others fairly, and follow your dreams relentlessly,” she said. “Instead of giving up, finish exactly what you have started to attain your own levels of success.”

That’s the dedication that has afforded the Atchisons the success they have achieved and driven the opportunities they continue to support for others.

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