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DECEMBER 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
Community | 13
99-year-old GDOT ‘legend’ and
WWII veteran tours l-285/Ga. 400
PHOTOS BY HANNAH GRECO
Wendell Lawing, center, surveys GDOT’s “Transform 285/400”
interchange project during a tour guided by project manager Mario
Clowers, right, and joined by his son, Mike Lawing, left.
Wendell Lawing, left, and Mario Clowers
pose for a photo during a tour of Georgia
Department of Transportation’s “Transform
285/400” interchange project.
“I can say he truly enjoyed his
tenure with the DOT,” Mike Law
ing said of his father’s career.
“He was always very pleasant
and upbeat about what he was
During their tour togeth
er, Clowers and Lawing realized
many commonalities, including
that both graduated from Geor
gia Tech with civil engineering
Clowers said although there
have been changes over the
years, Lawing’s ideas are still be
ing used today, including his de
sign of Georgia’s first curved
steel girder, a structure used for
“We are still using...the curved
steel,” Clowers said.
“I had something to do with
that,” Lawing said with a grin.
Now, Lawing resides at Dun-
woody Place, a senior living
community in Brookhaven, and
remains passionate about engi
“It is all just wonderful,” Law
ing said. “I learned so much to
BY HANNAH GRECO
To many metro-Atlanta residents, the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction
project is considered a nuisance. But to Wendell Lawing, a 99-year-old former state
bridge engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation and a World War II
veteran, it is a sight to see.
“I have been around a century and I have seen a lot of changes,” Lawing said dur
ing a Nov. 7 tour of the “Transform 285/400” project guided by project manager Mar
Lawing is considered a legend by the state transportation department, paving
the way for the designs of the I-285/I-85 interchange known today as Spaghetti Junc
tion, among other accomplishments during his career.
But before he began his more than 30-year tenure with GDOT, Lawing was an air
craft radio operator and, after being gunned down, a prisoner of war in Germany
during World War II.
In 1943, before Lawing’s crew’s departure overseas, his girlfriend Mary caught a
train from Chattanooga, Tenn., to where he was stationed in Sioux Falls, S.D., to ask
to marry him.
“She got in touch with Dad and said, ‘I am here and think we should get married
before you get shipped overseas,”’ said Mike Lawing, Wendell Lawing’s son.
Lawing could not get a pass to leave his base, so he took what he called an “oppor
tune point” and hopped the fence to get married, all without getting caught.
“That was quite a feat,” Lawing said.
The couple was married for 75 years, up until Mary’s death in October 2018.
“Can anybody believe it,” Lawing said. “We had been together in high school.”
In 1945, the plane carrying Lawing and his crewmates, a B-17 “Flying Fortress,”
was shot down in Berlin and he was captured by the Germans.
“The awful thing about it was we had two crew members killed in that engage
ment,” Lawing said.
He was a prisoner of war for a little over a year. After being freed, Lawing re
turned to Atlanta and enrolled at Georgia Tech, graduated with a civil engineering
degree, and began working for GDOT. Lawing was a career GDOT employee, mean
ing he stayed with the department up until retirement, working his way up from be
ing a bridge designer to become the state bridge engineer.
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