Originally created 03/15/06

Signs will honor effort of Connell to pave way

Charles DeVaney was mayor of Augusta; Tom Moreland was state transportation commissioner; and Jack Connell was the No. 2 man in the state House when the River Watch Parkway project, then known as Murray Road Extension, was given the green light in 1986.

That parkway was dedicated Tuesday in honor of Mr. Connell, who most say was instrumental in securing $50 million from the Legislature to build one of Augusta's most used roads.

"It's hard to believe this project started in the '70s," said Bill Kuhlke, of Augusta, the District 9 representative on the state Transportation Board.

"Jack pushed this project," he said during a small ceremony at the side of the road. "At times we didn't think it would happen."

The project was put on hold early in 1986 because cost estimates of $25 million had almost doubled.

The money was found, however, and construction began in 1987. The parkway opened in 1991.

State Rep. Ernestine Howard, whose late husband, state Rep. Henry Howard not only championed the road project but also pushed for it to be dedicated to Mr. Connell, told Tuesday's gathering that the honor was well deserved.

Mr. Connell served in the Georgia House from 1969 through 2002 and served as speaker pro tem for 26 years.

DOT District Engineer Mike Thomas read a resolution dedicating the road in honor of Mr. Connell: "... a native of Augusta, Georgia, and a veteran of World War II he is admired and respected as a consummate Southern gentleman, a pillar of the Augusta community, a prominent businessman and a prominent leader in government, political and religious organizations in his community."

Flanked by his wife, Nan; their daughter Andrea Collier; son-in-law Tilden Collier and grandchildren Banks, 7, and Jack, 4, Mr. Connell said he was honored.

Signs stating that the parkway is dedicated in honor of Mr. Connell will be placed at each end of the roadway.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Jack Connell

Age: 86

Military background: Flew 79 missions over Europe in World War II, including the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy

Political background: Elected to Augusta City Council, 1959; elected to the Georgia House in 1968; elected speaker pro tem of the House, 1977; announced he would not seek an 18th term in the House, 2002

Honors: Received Augusta State University's President's award, 1997; the Paul Harris Award from the Augusta Rotary Club, 1998; the Medical College of Georgia's Vessel of Life Award, 2002


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