Atlanta, Georgia - May 9, 2007
Hal Rives, the former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation who helped craft the compromise that ended nine years of acrimony between neighborhoods and government and led to the construction of Freedom Parkway, died Tuesday of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 81.
Rives was appointed chairman of the DOT in 1987 under Gov. Joe Frank Harris and brought relative placidity and even tempered leadership to an agency that previous chairman Tom Moreland had ruled forcefully with an iron will.
He implemented Harris' Governor's Road Improvement Program for repairing roads and bridges across the state and was instrumental in completing the Ga. 400 extension -- the first major toll road built in metro Atlanta.
"He was a real stickler for maintenance," Harris said. "And he was a good manager. He didn't have the political upheaval the department had under previous commissioners."
But, in the end, he was a victim of politics. Rives was forced into early retirement in 1991 by the state's new governor, Zell Miller, who handpicked as his successor Gwinnett County developer Wayne Shackleford a departure from the tradition of engineers heading the road-building agency.
Rives started with DOT in 1955 and worked his entire career there, rising from road design engineer, to state highway engineer, to deputy commissioner, to the head job.
Before he left as chairman he vowed to resolve the dispute over the building of a road between the Downtown Connector and Jimmy Carter's presidential library.
Susan Neugent worked at DOT with Rives before she left the agency to eventually become president and CEO of Fernbank Museum of Natural History. She remembered how he brought a calming influence to the heated dispute.
"Hal was focused on trying to address the broad concerns of the community as well as trying to meet the transportation needs," said Neugent. "He was a very collaborative type personality. He was able to broker something everybody could agree with."
After his retirement, Rives did volunteer work with the Atlanta Justice Center and Fernbank Museum of Natural History, where he was a guide for the Walk Through Time in Georgia exhibit.
He is survived by wife, Barbara Rives, of Stone Mountain, five children and four grandchildren.