Disability History Month: DRENNAN, LILLIE ELIZABETH MCGEE: Truck Driver (1897 – 1974)

    Office of the Governor Rick Perry
    Committee on People with Disabilities

Tuesday, October 21, 2014:

DRENNAN, LILLIE ELIZABETH MCGEE: Truck Driver (1897 – 1974)

Lillie Drennan was the first licensed female truck driver and trucking-firm owner in Texas (and the U.S.). It was not an easy road getting there, though; Drennan had almost completely lost her hearing by the time she was in her early 20s, probably the result of scarlet fever a few years before. She and her husband started a trucking business in 1928 in response to the oil boom near Hempstead. When the couple divorced a year later, she took over the company.

Drennan received her commercial truck-driver's license in 1929 after the Railroad Commission began supervising the motor-freight business in the state. Commission examiners appeared reluctant to grant her a license, contending that her hearing impairment would make her a safety risk. But she effectively argued her case, based on her driving record: "If any man can beat my record I'll just get out of here," she told them.

In her career as a truck driver and owner, she was known for having the best safety record of any truck driver. She received awards from the Railroad Commission and the Texas Motor Transportation Association. She also demonstrated her driving skills as a guest participant on a Texas Motor Transport Association "Roadeo" obstacle course at the state fairgrounds in Dallas in 1950. During World War II, the U.S. Army praised Drennan’s success in its recruiting campaign to attract women truck drivers for the quartermaster corps.

Drennan also achieved national fame for her colorful personality. Attired in her khaki pants and shirt, laced work boots, and a ten-gallon hat, she placed a loaded revolver by her side when she drove, although she never used it. In 1943 she visited Hollywood, where the Los Angeles Times hailed her as a "dry land Tugboat Annie." Although she entered into negotiations for a movie based upon her life, the production apparently never occurred. The city of Hempstead honored her with a banquet on Six-Shooter Junction Day in1946; such luminaries as Texas Department of Public Safety director Homer Garrison and future governor Beauford Jester attended.