Interchange named for county, state leader

LAWRENCEVILLE - Not long after he moved to Gwinnett County in 1960, Wayne Shackelford drove his '56 Chevrolet past the barricade on Interstate 85 through a path cleared in the woods that would soon be paved as Ga. Highway 316.

Nearly 50 years later, the interchange of those two major arterials not only got a new look but also a new name: the Wayne Shackelford Interchange.

"I'm pleased to stand here, humbled," said Shackelford, former county administrator and state transportation commissioner, surrounded by hundreds of politicians, colleagues, families and friends as the sign was unveiled Thursday. "Better things are happening in my life than I deserve."

While the naming won't become official until the legislature meets early next year, the State Transportation Board voted Thursday to bestow the honor. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners and Chamber of Commerce Board, on which Shackelford recently served as president, have approved similar resolutions.

"Few people have contributed as much to transportation as Wayne Shackelford," said Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, who has agreed to sponsor the naming legislation. "The project in the center of his home county is a fitting tribute."

Before a crowd of hundreds at a luncheon sponsored by the Morsberger Group, coll-eagues and friends told stories and shared laughs about "Shack," as he is known to many.

"I let him run the county for all practical purposes," former Gwinnett chairman Wayne Mason said, adding he was jealous of his colleague's memory. "I told Shackelford, 'I'll let you do the work; I'll take the credit.' ... He's been a great public servant and a great human being."

The son of a sharecropper, Shackelford, 73, began his career in Gwinnett as an assistant county extension agent. He now works as senior vice president of Gresham Smith and Partners.

Bill Hammack, president of contractor C.W. Matthews, said Thursday's tribute was well-timed, since two major bridges, part of a $147 million reconstruction of the interchange, will open this weekend.

"It's an honor for us to build this job, and it's an honor to know it will be named after my friend," Hammack said.