LAWRENCEVILLE - Former state transportation commissioner and county administrator Wayne Shackelford died Tuesday.
The son of a sharecropper who came to Gwinnett in 1960 and made an indelible impact on the community died at Emory Eastside Hospital after ailing for years. He was 75.
"Gwinnett, metro Atlanta and Georgia lost a true leader and one of the most amazing visionary and courageous men many of us have ever known," Gwinnett Chamber President Jim Maran said of Shackelford, a past chamber board chairman.
"While we mourn his loss, we know that Wayne is finally at peace, and we are heartened by the fact that we were the ones that were truly blessed by having known him these many years. Wayne is one of the few, rare souls that left a significant legacy for the public and countless memories for those of us in private that will be remembered for generations to come."
The Snellville man, who always credited his success to his wife Anna, began his career as a county extension agent and spent decades promoting agriculture, coordinating livestock shows at the
Gwinnett County Fair. In 2007, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia 4-H Foundation.
He served as the county's administrative assistant to the Board of Commissioners in the 1970s, then went on to a career as state transportation commission. During his tenure as commissioner from 1991 to 2000, the state added 5,000 miles of roads.
Current Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith called Shackelford Georgia transportation's "gentle giant," and praised him for his contributions to Atlanta's preparation for the 1996 Olympic games.
"Even after he left the department to return to the private sector, Commissioner Shackelford remained a vibrant force and advocate for transportation issues in the state," Smith said. "He was a great man and a great friend. I will miss his wise counsel."
In 2007, the newly rebuilt interchange at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 316 was named in Shackelford's honor. The Georgia DOT's Transportation Management Center, which he was instrumental in creating, also bears his name.
"He's been a great public servant, for the state of Georgia, to this community and beyond," said former commission Chairman Wayne Mason, who served alongside the man known as "Shack" to so many friends. "He's been a great advocate for people as a whole."
Shackelford was the longest serving county administrator, serving under three administrations. He helped expand services, such as the fire department, where only three station existed when he began his job but 18 were there when he left.
In a 2007 interview, Shackelford, known for his booming voice, described his jobs from the extension agent, where he began his career, to DOT commissioner the same way - "I'm a motivational engineer."
"It's a rare opportunity for a kid that grew up a sharecropper's son to lead one of the most powerful agencies in the state," he said.
He was proud of his accomplishments in transportation, creating intelligent transportation systems - computer coordinated traffic management - to guide Atlanta through the Olympics, his role in the genesis of high-occupancy vehicle in the region and working to create a more efficient transportation department.
Shackelford also helped create the Council for Quality Growth at a time when the county's population surged.
"It's a big loss for everybody," said council president Michael Paris. "It's been extraordinary to know him and everything he's done. ... He's been a part of our soul from day one."
Shackelford also played a hand in the creation of the first new college of the 21st century, serving as secretary-treasurer on the inaugural Board of Trustees for Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation.
"I had an admiration for Wayne as a statesman, a man of knowledge and an individual dedicated to the principle of higher education. As a result of his work, thousands of students will go to college in their community," college President Dan Kaufman said. "Wayne's impact will last generations and to say the least we owe him a great deal. We have lost a dear friend, a wonderful supporter and the ultimate Grizzly (the college's mascot)."
Shackelford's impact can be felt throughout Gwinnett.
Developer Emory Morsberger, who has played a role in the county's revitalization, transportation issues and more, called the veteran a mentor.
"I called him my Georgia father. He was that to a lot of people," Morsberger said. "It was amazing how many people he had personally affected in a deep way. ... He was always totally honest and he was a visionary. ... It's amazing how good he was."
Despite his battle with a lung disease, Shackelford continued to work in his "fourth career" as an executive vice president of Gresham, Smith and Partners, where he is credited with growing the company's Atlanta office.
"He loved the state of Georgia and all Georgians and used his unending passion and unique skills to successfully lead many government, civic and faith-based initiatives," said Executive Vice President Everett Cowan. "His accomplishments in his more than 55 years of public and private service greatly improved the quality of life of the citizens of Georgia."
In addition to his wife Anna, Shackelford leaves behind three children and seven grandchildren.
Below are the funeral arrangements for Mr. Wayne Shackelford.
Dates/Times: Thursday, Sept 3rd and Friday, Sept 4th 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Location: Tom M. Wages Funeral Service
120 Scenic Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
Date/Time: Saturday, September 5th at 11:00am
Location: First Baptist Church
165 Clayton Street
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
View and sign Wayne Shackelford's Guestbook