Bob Penny

Bob Penny, a character actor who appeared in “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Forrest Gump,” passed away on Sunday. He was 87.

The Laughlin Service Funeral Home posted an online obituary for Penny, but it didn’t specify the cause of death.

Along with seven episodes of the television series “In the Heat of the Night,” additional credits included “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Mississippi Burning,” “My Cousin Vinny,” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

Penny, an actor who was born in 1935 in Anniston, Alabama, has starred in more than 30 movies and TV shows. He spent three decades teaching English and poetry at the University of Alabama before turning to acting.

He earned a doctorate from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and a master’s in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Through the years, Penny won various accolades for both his teaching and poetry.

Penny found work performing in TV commercials for a nearby department store and for a United Way campaign in Atlanta during the 1980s.

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In 1990, he took a retirement from teaching to focus on his acting career.

“Then the movies started to come,” Penny said in 2008 to “I was quite fortunate. I had these pretty minor parts, but they undoubtedly assisted in covering the mortgage.

He was listed as a “crony” in the 1994 Tom Hanks movie “Forrest Gump,” and he starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in 2002’s “Sweet Home Alabama” as small-town attorney Wallace Buford.

Penny took engaged in theatre as well, appearing onstage in Birmingham versions of “The Odd Couple” and “Don Juan in Hell.”

Bob Penny captured everyone’s hearts at Birmingham Festival Theatre and gave his all to his job, according to a statement from the theater’s board chairwoman, Rhonda Erbrick.

Six nieces, one nephew, his sister, brother, and sister-in-law all survive Penny.

His online obituary reads, “A special gratitude is given to lifelong friend/caregiver, Lakin Boyd.”


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