An Alabama man who appeared in more than 30 movies and TV series and worked as a professor at UAB died on Christmas Day at 87.

Bob Penny had minor roles in movies such as "Forrest Gump," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Fried Green Tomatoes."

Penny was from Anniston and was an English professor at UAB for 21 years. He also performed in TV commercials and had a side job for a United Way campaign in Atlanta. After retiring from UAB in 1990, he found himself in small roles on the big screen.

"Then the movies began to come," Penny told in 2008. "I was really lucky. I had these very small roles, but they sure helped pay the mortgage."

Penny also made appearances in "Mississippi Burning," "My Cousin Vinny" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance," as well as the TV series "In the Heat of the Night."

Penny spent his early childhood in Jacksonville, Alabama, where his father was a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to North Carolina, but Penny found his way back to Alabama. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and taught poetry and prose at UAB. He was widely recognized for his excellence in the classroom and his talent as a writer.

He was a resident at Thrive Assisted Living in Huntsville. The family said a celebration of life would be held at a later date in Birmingham.

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