Thursday, May 23, 2019

W.S. Newell HIghway

Recently we made a trip to see our daughter Becca Leon and grandson Ezra who live near Jacksonville, Florida. On the way back to Pelham we ended up stuck for two and a half hours in a massive traffic jam on I-65 just north of Prattville. Unfortunately, the problem was caused by a wreck involving two commercial vehicles and the death of one of the drivers. The backup lasted for more than ten hours. 

Traffic was shuttled off the interstate onto US 31 at the Pine Level exit; the wreck was several miles north toward the Verbena exit. As we crawled toward that exit, I noticed the sign below that read "W.S. Newell Highway". As so often happens, wondering about that individual led to this blog post. 

W.S. "Billy" Newell was a road and building contractor who died in September 2009. His company built portions of I-65 and I-85; the stretch of the former named after him was their first interstate project. Newell also built various neighborhoods in Montgomery and other projects around the state. You can read more about him and see a photograph here. His firm remains in business today. 

Another one of Newell's well-known projects is the large "Go to Church or the Devil Will Get You" sign along that same stretch of I-65. 

Source: Flickr

Exactly 80 years ago you could see this sign along a roadside in #Alabama in May 1939. Found via @Shorpy Taken by Marion Post Wolcott during her work for the Farm Security Administration documenting poverty in the Great Depression. The words are the title of a hymn by Daniel March [1816-1909] based on Isaiah 6:8 

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