Mayor Larry Langford announced today that the Northern Beltline will be given the honorary name “Jacob J. Tyson Memorial Highway.” I think that’s a good choice. Those of you not from around here won’t know who he is, and I’ll try to fix that.
Some basic facts are on his Wikipedia page – born 1942, died 2008. Decorated Army officer in Vietnam. His father Paul was the 2nd black officer to join the Montgomery police force. Tyson got his civil engineering degree in Tuscaloosa, then joined ALDOT in the Birmingham office. Did drafting, soil work and drainage for a segment of I-459, and also for the I-20 interchange at Travis Road. Vietnam flared up, he was drafted, served four years, and came back in one piece, decorated, as a staff sergeant in the Army. He went back to ALDOT and retired there in 2001.
I know a guy who knew Mr. Tyson, and has an interesting anecdote. Jerry Berklund, now retired, was a motorcycle officer back in 1969, when Tyson was on leave and visiting family over Christmas. Berklund pulled Tyson over on I-459 for driving in the far left lane (which was prohibited at the time).
“‘This isn’t right,’ he told me,” Berklund says. “‘I helped build this road.’ And, you know, now it’s obvious that was a bad law. But it was the law, and I had to pull him over. But we had some discretion, even back in the day, and Jake was in the service. So I gave him a verbal warning and sent him on his way.”
Tyson and Berklund met again in 1977, at a charity golf event at Garnet Hills. “Of course I remembered him,” says Berklund. “Stand-up guy, smart guy, you could just tell.” They became acquaintances, then good friends. Tyson’s generosity was well-known across the city. He passed away due to heart failure in summer 2008. Hundreds attended the memorial.
I think it’s pretty cool to have a new highway honor someone who was 1) a great person, and 2) involved in the road business. People like Mr. Tyson are what vientology is all about.