1878 – 1941
When James Edmund Pennybacker was born on New Year’s Day in 1878, America’s roads were meager at best. During his lifetime, however, J. E. Pennybacker’s resourcefulness and foresight made significant contributions toward developing a road building program that was to become a model for the entire world.
Born in Franklin, West Virginia, Pennybacker attended the University of West Virginia and later received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Georgetown University of Washington, D. C. In 1906 he was named Chief Economist of the United States Bureau of Public Roads. In this capacity he drew the original bill for Federal aid to road building which was enacted into law in 1906.
From 1910 to 1914 he was secretary of the American Highway Association and also statistician of the Senate Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, as well as Advisor to the Ontario, Canada, Highway Commission. From 1914 to 1917, he was Chief of Management of the Bureau of Public Roads and also was Secretary of the U. S. Highways Council.
The year 1919 saw Pennybacker named Chairman of the Road Board of the American Automobile Association and Managing Director of the Asphalt Association (later the Asphalt Institute) which had been founded that year. This latter post Pennybacker held until his death in 1941 in Delray Beach, Florida, at the age of sixty three.
He was also one of the founders of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) and a director of the American Road Builders’ Association, an organization of which he was a member for more than twenty years.