Last Run: BLET VP Raymond Holmes
It was with a heavy heart that Raymond A. Holmes announced his retirement from the office of Vice-President and National Legislative Representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in June.
He was finally retiring from an organization that he had served for more than 30 years and from a railroad career that spanned 47 years.
But on a more personal note, Brother Holmes' retirement coincided with the passing of his mother. Delegates attending the Brotherhood's First Quadrennial Convention in Las Vegas in June will recall that Brother Holmes was called to leave the convention early as his mother entered into a Hospice situation. She passed away on June 29, 2006.
"Retirements are normally a celebration of achievements from a lifetime of work," said Don Hahs, National President of the BLET. "We thank Brother Holmes for his years of dedication and service to the Brotherhood, and, on behalf of all BLET members, I express deepest sympathy over his mother's passing."
Delegates attending the former BLE's Seventh Quinquennial Convention in Miami Beach, Fla., elected Holmes to the office of Vice President & U.S. National Legislative Representative in September 2001. He served as the union's chief lobbyist until his retirement in June 2006.
Passage of the Railroad Retirement and Survivors Improvement Act of 2001, which lowered the retirement age for railroad workers, came during Holmes' term of office as National Legislative Representative.
"It took three or four years to get it passed," Holmes said. "I made many trips to Washington to lobby for it as a State Chairman and continued lobbying as Vice President."
Immediately prior to his election as National Legislative Representative in 2001, he served as Chairman of the BLE's Texas State Legislative Board, a position he held since 1986. At the time of his election in 2001, he was serving his second term as Chairman of the National Association of State Legislative Board Chairmen, a group he had previously served as Secretary-Treasurer for more than 11 years.
His work with the Texas State Legislative Board was also productive. Holmes said the Texas Board had more than 25 pieces of legislation were passed during his tenure that directly or indirectly affected locomotive engineers. "They ranged from limo bills to improved grade crossing safety bills," Holmes said.
On the Division level, Holmes served Division 834 (Mineola, Texas) as Local Chairman from 1976-1986 and Legislative Representative from 1972-1986. On the General Committee level, he served for six years as First Vice-Chairman of the Union Pacific General Committee in Fort Worth, Texas.
On the state level, he served the Texas State Legislative Board as Second Vice-Chairman for three years and First Vice-Chairman for six years.
He was also a delegate to the Sixth Quinquennial Convention where he served as Chairman of the Legislative Committee.
Looking back on his career, Brother Holmes mentioned two individuals who had a tremendous influence on him. First, he recognized Don Robertson, the man he succeeded as Chairman of the Texas State Legislative Board, who encouraged him to get involved in the union and in politics. In addition, he recognized Walter Ayers, "one of the old locomotive engineers who taught me a lot when I was a fireman."
Holmes also thanked BLET First Vice President Ed Rodzwicz. "I appreciate all the good counsel Ed has given me over the years," Holmes said.
But it is his years of service on the National Association of State Legislative Board Chairmen (NASLBC) that evoke his favorite memories from the Brotherhood.
"I have very fond memories of all of our NASLBC meetings," Holmes said. "We had some real characters serving over the years and I love every one of them."
A second generation locomotive engineer, Holmes began his railroad career as a switchman on the Texas & Pacific Railroad in 1959 in Dallas, Texas. He went firing for the Missouri Pacific Railroad on August 19, 1970 and was promoted to locomotive engineer in October of 1972.
Holmes' father, now deceased, was a locomotive engineer and his younger brother, Matthew, is currently an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad working out of Longview, Texas.
Brother Holmes remarried in May, and he and his wife Diane have already spent time traveling during his retirement. An outdoors enthusiast, Brother Holmes owns a small farm in East Texas and plans to spend time "fixing and repairing things I neglected the last 20 years," he said.
He has two children (Rachel Falling and Joseph Holmes) and seven grandchildren. He plans to spend a lot more time with them than he has in the passed. Brother Holmes was born on December 25, 1939, in Borger, Texas.
In addition to hunting and fishing, he enjoys building bird houses and woodduck boxes that he installs throughout his properties. He is a "semi-expert" on flowers and trees and he loves to take long walks in the woods.
From left: Retired BLET Vice President & National Legislative Representative Raymond Holmes; Minnesota State Legislative Board Chairman Tom Perkovich; and Texas State Legislative Board Chairman Terry Briggs.
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen