Bob Penny, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ actor, dead at 87

Bob Penny, an actor who had roles in “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Forrest Gump” died on Christmas Day at 87.

No cause of death was given.

Born in 1935, the Alabama native spent the majority of his early days as a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, teaching poetry and English, according to his obituary from Laughlin Service Funeral Home in Huntsville, Ala.

Penny found side work as a TV commercial actor for a local department store and for a United Way campaign in Atlanta in the 1980s, according to

Penny retired after 32 years in education in 1990 to focus on his acting career.

Bob Penny in "Sweet Home Alabama."
Penny as Wallace Buford in the 2002 film “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Then the movies began to come,” Penny said in an interview with in 2008. “I was really lucky. I had these very small roles, but they sure helped pay the mortgage.”

Penny is credited in over 30 films and television series. He played small-town lawyer Wallace Buford in “Sweet Home Alabama” in 2002 and had a small role in the 1994 classic “Forrest Gump.”

The Columbia graduate is also credited on “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and the TV series “In the Heat of the Night.”

When he wasn’t performing on screen, Penny took roles in theatrical productions in Birmingham.

Bob Penny
Penny also performed on stage for the Birmingham Festival Theatre.
Laughlin Service Funeral Home

Rhonda Erbrick, chairwoman of the theater’s board, said Penny “captivated all of our hearts at Birmingham Festival Theatre” and was dedicated to the craft.

“[Penny] is and was always an actor and a joy to be around.”

Penny is survived by his brother, William Earl Penny (Betty), his sister, Jean Marion Yount, six nieces, and one nephew.

With Post wires