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Gil Carmichael, a former Federal Railroad Administrator, founder of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver and transportation policy visionary, died Jan. 31 at his home in Meridian, Miss. He was 88.From 1945 to 1946, he served in the U.S. military and was commissioned as an officer in the Coast Guard in the Korean War. He was awarded the Silver Life Saving Medal by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, according to an obituary posted on the Wright's Funeral Home website.
In 1950, Carmichael graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in business and a minor in petroleum engineering. In 1961, Carmichael moved to Meridian, Miss., and launched his own company, which included two automobile dealerships and a real estate development company. After an unsuccessful U.S. Senate seat bid in 1972, Carmichael was summoned by President Richard Nixon to chair the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's advisory. But the energy crisis that crippled the United States in 1973 prompted Carmichael to take a new path: "I went in a highway lobbyist and came out an intermodalist," he told Progressive Railroading in 2002. In 1975, President Gerald Ford appointed Carmichael to the National Transportation Policy Study Commission, which was charged with assessing transportation needs for the year 2000. In Mississippi, where he twice ran for governor, he helped "originate, author, and pass a 1,077-mile statewide four-lane highway construction program, and was also instrumental in the creation of a 700-mile regional railroad in East Mississippi and West Alabama," according to his obituary.
From 1989 to 1993, Carmichael headed the FRA during the George H.W. Bush administration. During that time, he nurtured the first World Railway Congress and proposed a regional network of high-speed rail corridors. And he continued to champion intermodalism and advocated viewing it in a global context. In 1996, Carmichael was one of the founding creators of the University of Denver's Intermodal Transportation Institute. In 1998, he was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council and was named chairman a year later — a post he held through mid-2002. And from 1993 through 2002, Carmichael shared his transportation insights in "Viewpoint," a column he penned for Progressive Railroading. "Gil brought to our magazine great insight on the railroad industry, especially in the intermodal sector," says Rich Zemencik, former co-owner and associate publisher of Progressive Railroading. "Gil was a true gentleman and friend of our country's transportation industry."Long after he pared back his professional involvements, Carmichael continued to publish and present papers, advocating the need for a North American and global intermodal freight and passenger system using the world's rail network."Gil raised the level of transport policy discourse and took the high road doing it," says Progressive Railroading Editor Pat Foran. "He was uncommonly gracious. It was a joy to talk with Gil, a privilege working with him and an honor knowing him."Carmichael is survived his wife, Carolyn; son, Gilbert Scott; a grandson; two sisters; and three step grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1116 23rd Ave., Meridian, MS, 39301. Online condolences may be given at www.wrightsfuneral.com.