The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Hardworking and caring: Carolina Livery founder Mike McMorrow dies at 63

Photo Courtesy of Carol McMorrow.

Mike McMorrow, who founded Carolina Livery – the transportation service that serves the Triangle and UNC’s campus with its famous small and medium-sized white buses – died of heart failure in his Durham home on Sept. 1 at 63 years old.

His wife Carol McMorrow met him in 1979 on a Chapel Hill Transit bus, a situation she still finds humor in. At the time, she says Mike didn't have any dreams of owning a bus company. 

The two married while still attending UNC in December 1981. Shortly after, Mike got a job at a limousine company to help Carol complete Duke University’s Physician Assistant Program.

Carol said Mike enjoyed the excitement of the transportation business. She said the experience of working at the limousine company motivated him to found Carolina Livery in 1987.

“He was a ridiculously hard worker, but he also had a tremendously big heart,” she said. 

Deborah Hawkins, UNC’s parking control and event operations manager, said she first contacted Carolina Livery 22 years ago for help with a women’s soccer match.

“He said, ‘I’d love to help you out,'” Hawkins said. “He was so reassuring and professional.” 

Hawkins said that phone call began Carolina Livery's still-standing partnership with the University. Carolina Livery provides shuttles for UNC Athletics, commencement and other University events. The service also operates the Robertson Express, which has buses that run between UNC and Duke University.

She said the shuttles have allowed UNC to move away from using golf carts and to transport people more safely and efficiently.

“Carolina Livery forever changed the trajectory of how we do events on campus,” Hawkins said. 

In an email to Carol, Hawkins said she not only saw Mike as a colleague and a business partner, but also as a friend. 

“I’m extremely fortunate [that] Mike answered my phone call in the summer of 2001,” Hawkins said in the email.

In 2002, Mike was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular condition that limited his mobility. Joshua Smith, the vice president of Carolina Livery, said that even after Mike started to use a wheelchair, he continued to visit the office and attend campus events in person.

“Any other human being would have gone home and rested,” Smith said. “But that was Mike. He wanted to show us the importance of making sure things were done right.”

Carol said she remembers the kindheartedness Mike extended to hospital staff, remembering their children's names and connecting on a more personal level. Her husband’s thoughtfulness was one of his most "striking features," she said.

“Every single person he met he wanted to know all about,” she said. “He cared about each individual.”

Carol, who has taken over as president of Carolina Livery, said she is committed to honoring Mike’s legacy and that the company will continue its service in the Triangle.

Smith said he will continue to enforce existing company standards, such as driver training and Mike’s commitment to customer service.

“He did well to establish a name for us,” Smith said. 

Carol said Mike also had a loving relationship with his cat, a gray tabby named Pippin. The family’s cat, who had gone missing last October, was brought home after eight months this past June. Since returning home, Carol said Pippin rarely left Mike’s side.

“When he died and took his last breath, I thought Pippin would have moved,” she said. “But he just stayed right there.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


@DTHCityState |