The poet and retired English professor appeared in more than 30 films and shows, playing small roles to “help pay the mortgage.”

Huntsville, Ala. — Bob Penny, an Alabama college professor and actor who played small roles in films including “Forrest Gump” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” has died at 87.

Penny died on Christmas Day, according to a statement from Laughlin Service Funeral Home in Huntsville. No cause of death was given.

Born in Anniston in 1935, Penny was a poet who spent three decades as an English professor, mostly teaching poetry and prose at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Reported

During the 1980s, Penny found work at a local department store as well as working on TV commercials for the United Way campaign in Atlanta. After Penny retired from university in 1990, she delved further into acting.

“Then the movies started coming out,” Penny told in 2008. “I was really lucky. I had these very small roles, but they definitely helped pay the mortgage.

Penny has appeared in over 30 films and TV series. He was credited as “Crony” in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump” and played a small-town lawyer in the 2002 release “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Penny’s other film credits include the films “Mississippi Burning,” “My Cousin Vinny” and “The Legend of Bigger Venice,” as well as the TV series “In the Heat of the Night.”

When he wasn’t acting in film, Penny participated in theater productions in Birmingham, where he performed on stage in plays including “The Odd Couple” and “Don Juan in Hell.”

“Bob Penny captured the hearts of all of us at the Birmingham Festival Theater and put his all into his work,” Theater Board Chairwoman Rhonda Erbrick said in a statement. He added that Penny “is and always will be a performer and a joy to be around.”

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