D. Mike Pennington, a prominent figure in the trucking community with a career that spanned more than 40 years, died Friday of a heart attack near his home in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He was 64.
Mike, as he was known to all, started his career in trucking in 1972 as an editor of Southern Motor Cargo in his home town of Memphis just after graduating with a degree in Journalism from the Univ. of Memphis. Thirteen years later he moved to Michigan to take over public relations duties for Rockwell Automotive and helped the company transition into the heavy-duty component supplier Meritor. In 2010, he founded PenNotes LLC, a communications business representing a number of clients in the truck aftermarket, as well as providing freelance articles for numerous trucking publications.
Throughout his career, Mike was active in both industry image and charitable organizations, serving as president of ACT 1, the Allied Committee for the Trucking Industry, as well as working to help establish Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week and the recently formed Aftermarket Leader of Tomorrow program. Most recently he donated his talents to the newly established Trucking Moves America Forward campaign.
Among his many industry recognitions over the years was a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Truck Writers of North America in 2008 and Communicator of the Year Award from the same group in 2006.
For those who knew him, Mike’s real genius was his capacity to foster genuine friendships with the many, many people whose paths were lucky enough to cross his. As news of his death spread this weekend, it quickly became evident just how many lives he’d touched with his kindness, humor and generosity as social media filled with remembrances and expressions of great loss from friends stretching all the way back to his earliest school days.
Perhaps expressing it best, fellow communications professional Jim Bianchi wrote on Facebook: “In every life, you have a handful of people who profoundly affect you personally and professionally. Maybe your Dad or Mom, a favorite teacher, an uncle or coach or boss. Mike was one of those people for me. Since 1980, when we first met, I’ve been able to call Mike Pennington many things: Editor. Colleague. Mentor. Client. Big brother. Press conference co-conspirator. Cheerleader. Inspirer. Confidant. Counselor. But the title I’m most fortunate – and most proud – to have been able to call him is: Friend.”
Mike is survived by his wife Patsy of Fernandina Beach, FL, and his brother Mark Pennington of Memphis.