I-22 named for James Brown

The Brown family and friends stand next to the sign that will go up along I-22 in honor of James “Spike” Brown. Left to right, top row: State Representative Tracey Estes, Susannah Brown, Alexandra Leigh M.D., Beatrix Brown, Nathan Brown M.D./D.M.D., Meredith Brown and Kenneth Mays III (Tripp). Bottom row: Myrina (Minnow) Brown, Alexandra (Honey) Brown, Cynthia Brown and Dylan Mays.

By Luke Brantley
Staff writer
HAMILTON — Family, friends and fellow state, county and local officials gathered at Hamilton City Hall on Friday, March 15, to honor the late James “Spike” Brown.
The portion of I-22 from the Mississippi state line to the line separating Marion County from Walker County will now be known as the James D. “Spike” Brown Memorial Highway.
Brown’s ALDOT career began back in 1970, starting as an assistant project engineer and later a project engineer and a district engineer.
He became the division maintenance engineer in 1979, and later served as the construction and materials engineer.
He was also the division engineer in Tuscaloosa before being named state chief engineer in 1994. He was later appointed as a division engineer in Tuscumbia in 1996.
In 2014, he was selected as the West Central Region engineer, where he served until his retirement. During that time, Brown was pivotal in the construction of I-22, a project that had been in the works since the 1970s and was completed in 2016.
Brown’s co-workers, family and friends all spoke highly of him, his work ethic and his boots-on-the-ground approach during the ceremony.
Brown’s son, Dr. Nathan Brown, said that despite his job requiring a lot of travel and hours or even weeks away from home, his father was never distant to him or his siblings. “Despite all that distance, he would come home every weekend ready to be a present father,” Brown said. “We essentially spent every hour together, either him spectating at our sports or other events, or us working on the farm toward his great passion of horse and cattle farming.
“During the week, he would drive hundreds of miles to attend a mid-week event for one of us. I recall him in the stands for almost every game of my seventh grade basketball season. I never played.”
House Joint Resolution No. 231, by state representative Tracy Estes, encouraged ALDOT to name the interstate in honor of James for his over 50 years of service.
“I am honored to have been given this opportunity to direct this recognition for this distinguished gentleman through the Alabama Legislature,” Estes said. “Having known James for many years, as so many in our community have, I can personally attest to his character, love of family, work ethic and overall gentle nature.
“James was one of the kindest men I ever knew, and I never doubted his love for his native home of Hamilton. Each of us should be honored to know he called this area his. He always represented us in a first-class manner.
“Knowing the countless hours he devoted toward construction of what we now know as Interstate 22, it is only fitting the Marion County portion of the highway now bears his name.
“To see officials from the highest levels within the transportation department make the trip from Tuscaloosa and Montgomery to participate in this ceremony simply serves as another testament to his value to our state and the high esteem he had earned over the last five decades. He has been and continues to be missed.”
During the ceremony, other officials, including ALDOT Director John Cooper, Hamilton Mayor Bob Page and many more who worked with Brown, shared kind words and fond memories as they celebrated his legacy.
Estes also encouraged ALDOT to look into building a rest stop along I-22 in Marion County, a project that Brown had wanted to work on before his retirement.
“We were only separated by, what he made appear as inconsequential, physical distance,” Dr. Nathan Brown said. “Nothing else ever separated us.
“He did essentially spend his entire adult life and career with the Alabama Department of Transportation. He turned down many opportunities to go into the private world.
“His passion was service. He desperately wanted to leave his division, his department, his people and the State of Alabama better for him being there.
“He loved Alabama and his job much like we love our own family, our child. He was charmed by her beauty and potential, deeply committed to helping her grow, sometimes frustrated by her faults and the decisions she made, but elated with the positive steps, growth and maturation.

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