Robert Mottley’s larger-than-life presence, irresistible charm and sense of humor eased both anxious and reserved shipping executives during interviews, and allowed them to discuss their businesses, as well as careers, in a most open and personable way.
Those of us in the industry who had the distinct privilege of engaging longtime maritime reporter, Bob Mottley, in conversation at press gatherings or conferences over the past 40 years never forgot him.
His larger-than-life presence, irresistible charm and sense of humor eased both anxious and reserved executives during interviews and allowed them to discuss their businesses, as well as careers, in a most open and personable way. While these interviews resulted in fascinating and insightful feature articles, they also led to many lifelong friendships.
“The maritime industry once had a lot of real characters, and in this modern age, Bob still remained a character,” said Capt. James McNamara, retired president of the National Cargo Bureau, who had known Mottley since 1985. “He was a great friend and I enjoyed his sense of humor immensely.”
“Bob worked at American Shipper for an unforgettable 10 years. He was always full of life and excitement,” said Hayes Howard, CEO of the publication.
Robert Courtney Mottley Jr., a longtime maritime industry reporter, died on Jan. 22 after a valiant battle with brain cancer. He was 75.
Born on Nov. 21, 1943, he was born the only child of Robert C. Mottley Sr. and Tita Mae Bland Mottley of Roanoke, Va.
Due to various health problems during his early childhood, Mottley spent much of his spare time reading books and enjoying classical music. These interests never abated throughout his life.
In 1964, he graduated from Washington and Lee University in Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree, and then obtained his Master’s from the University of Delaware in 1966.
During the late 1960s, Mottley moved to New York to pursue his interest in writing. There, he met Pamela Guinan and they were married in 1972. They had a daughter, Mariah, in 1979. After separating in 1984, they remained close friends until her death on Nov. 30, 2004.
While living in Manhattan, Mottley held a variety of communications and reporting jobs. He got his taste for the maritime industry by working for the Seafarers’ International Union. From there, he wrote for Colonial Homes and Marine Log magazines, and freelanced for many other publications on myriad topics.
In 1995, he joined the editorial staff of American Shipper and worked at the publication’s office in 5 World Trade Center. He enjoyed attending industry events and many of his professional contacts quickly became close friends.
Mottley was especially known among New York’s admiralty attorneys, and although not schooled in law, many of them considered him as one of their own. Through his Shippers’ Case Law columns, Mottley knew how to skillfully interpret and distill complex freight transportation legal proceedings for both the enjoyment and enlightenment of many shipping executives.
“I always regarded Bob as an extraordinary journalist and a great friend to the maritime bar. He showed a great interest in the cases that we presented to him,” said Keith Heard, a maritime attorney with New York-based law firm Burke & Parsons and longtime friend. “I can’t say enough about how much he’ll be missed.”
“Whether it was a complex trade matter, or technical features emanating from a proposed new international cargo maritime liability convention, Bob had the unique ability to capture the important elements and present these to his readers,” said Peter Gatti, who served as executive vice president at the National Industrial Transportation League from 2005 to 2013.
Having survived the destruction of the World Trade Center towers during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Mottley appreciated life, and especially enjoyed spending time with family and friends.
He left American Shipper in 2006, and shortly thereafter, moved away from New York City to the rural community of Trumansburg, N.Y., to be closer to his daughter and her growing family.
Mottley remained in contact with many of his friends in the industry. He worked with Gatti to author the 2007 book about the 100th anniversary of the NIT League. Mottley interviewed scores of past and present officials from the association, staff and industry. “Together the book tracks not only the history of the organization, but the very origins of 20th century freight transportation in America,” Gatti said.
With his German Shepherd, Jake, constantly at his side and enjoying the quiet of the country, Mottley spent hours each day writing works of fiction. He had published three novels by the time of his death.
He is survived by his daughter, Mariah Plumlee, her husband Sean, and their three children, Bela, Billie June, and Winslow. They continue to care for 12-year-old Jake and his kitten, Jethro.
Memorial services have not yet been scheduled, but friends are welcome to make donations in Robert Mottley’s name to Hospicare of Ithaca, N.Y.