He has served as a vice president on the BLET's Advisory Board since April 24, 2009, and his retirement is effective June 30, 2013.
Vice President Knight publicly made the announcement in an emotional speech at the BLET's Southeastern Meeting Association's 86th annual convention on June 24.
Richard Gibbons, alternate national vice president No. 1, will be promoted to the office of national vice president to fill the vacancy on the Advisory Board, effective July 1, 2013.
"I personally thank brother Willard for his valuable leadership and experience," BLET National President Dennis Pierce said. "The contracts he helped negotiate throughout the years have had a positive and lasting impact on a generation of locomotive engineers. Brother Willard should be proud of what he accomplished for the membership during the past 44 years. On behalf of the National Division and the entire organization, I wish him nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement."
Knight spent 34 of his 44 years in the industry serving the membership as an elected officer of the brotherhood. His railroad career began in 1969 as a fireman on the Norfolk & Western Railroad in Portsmouth, Ohio. He earned a promotion to locomotive engineer in 1972 and first joined BLET Division 511 (Portsmouth, Ohio) on January 1, 1974. He began serving as a union officer in 1979 when he was elected local chairman of Division 511. He was reelected to that office numerous times during the next 18 years until he was elected general chairman of the BLET's Norfolk Southern–Eastern Region General Committee of Adjustment on January 1, 1992. He served as general chairman for 17 years before stepping up to the BLET's Advisory Board.
In 2006, Knight was elected by acclamation to the position of third-alternate vice president and was promoted to the BLET's Advisory Board on April 24, 2009. He was then reelected by acclamation to vice president in October of 2010.
"Rick Gibbons has been a capable and determined general chairman for many years," President Pierce said. "I know that he will bring that same tenacity and leadership to his new role as national vice president and I am proud to welcome him to the advisory board."