LINCOLN, Neb. — A prominent Nebraska businessman who built Crete Carrier into one of the nation’s largest privately owned trucking companies and played a significant role in the state’s Republican party has died.
Duane Acklie was 84 when he died Saturday. His son-in-law, Tonn Ostergard, who is Crete Carrier’s CEO, said Acklie’s funeral will be held Thursday at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln.
Acklie was a key fundraiser for GOP candidates and served in behind-the-scenes roles in the party. He also led the Lincoln and Nebraska Chambers of Commerce and the American Trucking Association.
“He was a tireless worker for Republican politics on the local, state and national level,” Ostergard said. “To him, every candidate was important.”
Acklie served as an adviser to both Bush presidents and raised money for their campaigns, but he also worked to elect local candidates and was a longtime national committeeman representing Nebraska.
Nebraska Republicans praised Acklie after his death was reported. Republican U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said Acklie was a longtime friend.
“Duane Acklie was a loving husband, a caring father, and a successful businessman who built a business from the ground up,” Fischer said. “He loved his state, and he was an active member of his community.”
Crete Carrier began in 1966 with six leased trucks hauling dog food from a plant in Crete, Nebraska. Initially, Acklie was a lawyer advising the company’s founder, but he later bought the trucking firm in 1973.
Crete Carrier generated just over $1 billion revenue last year, up from $6 million when the Acklies took over the company. Today, Crete has more than 5,000 drivers and tractors and nearly 13,000 trailers in its fleet nationwide. Acklie stepped down as CEO in 1991 but continued to serve as board chairman until his death.
Acklie served in the U.S. Army in Germany for nearly two years after graduating from law school in 1955, and served seven years in the Army Reserve. That experience prompted him to work to hire veterans and help them adjust to civilian life as Crete Carrier grew.
“We want to do everything we can to help that service person coming back, to make sure that they have an adequate job available to them,” Acklie told the Omaha World-Herald in 2012.