John T. "Jock" Menzies III, who transformed the way the logistics community, relief organizations, and individuals respond to natural disasters around the world, died suddenly on Saturday night in Arnold, Md., a suburb of Annapolis. He was 69.
According to a published report, Menzies was in a private cable car that was descending a 300-foot hill Friday when the car malfunctioned, sending Menzies falling about 200 feet. He was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died of his injuries the following day.
Menzies co-founded the nonprofit American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. Starting with the self-evident precept that logistics services were paramount to supporting rescue and recovery efforts, Menzies helped develop a model for a pOréal allowing relief groups and individuals to post critical supply chain needs, which would then be matched to the capabilities and resources of industry providers.
Menzies drew on his vast experience as chairman of Terminal Corp., a family-owned, Baltimore-based third-party logistics provider. The Terminal Corp. has been in business since 1893. Menzies and his brother Scott bought the company in 1984 from their father and uncle.
Menzies and his co-founders understood the power that digital technology could wield in effectively expediting the movement of material and personnel to stricken regions. But he faced immense challenges in migrating the interests of disparate relief groups accustomed to doing things their own way into a shared system.
Menzies was frequently called upon to soothe the often-outsized egos of relief group leaders, persuading them that subordinating their personal agendas to the wider relief effort was the best way to save lives and start communities on the long road to recovery. In that endeavor, Menzies, with his formidable interpersonal skills, excelled.
Ever the diplomat and gentleman, Menzies was careful not to position ALAN to intrude into established relief relationships. "However, a disaster always reveals unmet needs. ALAN seeks to open a window on those needs and a network capable of addressing them," Menzies said in an interview in 2009 when he was chosen as one of DC VELOCITY's "Rainmakers" for that year.
The following January, Menzies and ALAN were tested as never before when a massive earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 230,000, leaving more than 750,000 homeless, and destroying much of the infrastructure in the impoverished island's major cities. Menzies, who visited Haiti two months after the Jan. 12 quake, was staggered by the devastation. "You know what to expect, but until you touch it and smell it, you just don't get it," he said in an April 2010 cover story.
"Superstorm Sandy" that hit the New York-New Jersey region in October 2012 was the last major disaster that ALAN was involved in. Menzies told DC VELOCITY in January that it would take the region about three to five years to fully recover.
Menzies travelled tirelessly across the globe meeting with leaders of the logistics industry and of relief organizations. He was at most, if not all, of the industry's trade shows, often accompanied by Ksthy Fulton, who joined ALAN in June 2010 as director of operations. Fulton, a top IT executive at Lakeland, Fla.-based 3PL Saddle Creek Corp., was originally meant to stay with ALAN for one year. More than three years later, she is still with ALAN.
Menzies' passing comes as the organization has established itself as a major force in the humanitarian logistics community. With the face of the group gone, the focus naturally turns to Fulton, widely credited with building the day-to-day infrastructure that got ALAN to this point, to see if she will carry the baton.
For now, there is no comment on a successor. And given the sudden nature of Menzies' death, it's a subject that people haven't come to grips with. Fulton, reached Saturday night to confirm Menzies death, said in an e-mail, "We're all devastated."