- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Former state Rep. John David Pennebaker, who helped create Mississippi’s comprehensive four-lane highway construction program in 1987, has died at 72.

Pennebaker, a New Albany attorney, died of pneumonia Wednesday at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, according to The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/1Mc1e12 ).

Pennebaker, a Democrat, was New Albany mayor from 1969 until he was elected to the House in 1975. He served in the House until 1992. Former Rep. Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, served in the House from 1980 to 2012 and was House speaker his last eight years. He said Pennebaker was one of his top colleagues at the Capitol.

“He cared about things that really mattered for the state,” McCoy said. “He cared about education, transportation. He wasn’t just a transportation man. He cared about the overall good of the state.”

When Pennebaker was chairman of the House Transportation Committee and McCoy was vice chairman, they worked on a plan to improve highways. With business support, the legislation creating more than 1,000 miles of four-lane highways became law in 1987 over Gov. Bill Allain’s veto.

The four-lane highway program is often cited as boosting economic development. One road improved under the program was U.S. 78, now designated as Interstate 22, in northern Mississippi. A Toyota manufacturing plant was built in Blue Springs several years ago, and ready access to a four-lane highway was a key reason the site was chosen.

“John David was a great thinker and a master of the legislative process,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who served with Pennebaker. “He could be hard to get along with because he was a no-nonsense, get-it-done chairman. His was a noteworthy legislative career.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com


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