Photo by Tony Illia/ENR
Brock gave a press conference at CONEXPO 2011, not long before he was diagnosed with cancer.

J. Don Brock, chairman and former chief executive officer of Astec Industries Inc. died March 10 in Chattanooga, Tenn. He was 76 years old.

For more than 40 years, Brock was the construction industry’s outspoken champion of hot-mix asphalt. In later years, he sought to make flexible pavements more environmentally friendly and recyclable.

Brock—also known as Dr. Brock referring to his doctorate in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech University—was during his career awarded close to 100 U.S. and foreign patents for construction machinery and drying equipment. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s Man of the Year and the Association of Equipment Manufacturer’s Hall of Fame.

As the face of Astec, which he founded in 1972 after selling his father’s asphalt-heating business to CMI, Brock grew the startup company into a global equipment manufacturing firm traded on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. Last year, Astec brought in net sales of $975.6 million.

A frequent speaker at industry events, Brock had a special knack of boiling down complex ideas into easy-to-understand concepts. For example, he once used shaving cream to inspire company engineers to lower the binding temperature of liquid asphalt.

“A couple of years ago, I bought two cans of shaving cream and painted them black,” Brock told ENR in 2007. “I put them on my chief engineer’s desk and said, ‘Make me a foam that looks like this stuff.’"

Astec’s engineers did, and last year, the company announced that it had sold its 600th warm-mix asphalt system. The plant equipment injects water into the mix, creating a foam that efficiently binds asphalt and aggregate. This allows for producers to reduce fuel consumption, smoke and smell while increasing production and using higher amounts of recycled materials.

Brock frequently criticized the nation's irregular infrastructure spending, and he often complained that highway engineers have few incentives to innovate past conservative pavement designs. Still, he recognized that asphalt pavers can play an active role in ongoing road maintenance as economic, political or other factors delay new construction.

“Most state transportation agencies won’t engineer a bridge or other multi-faceted projects until they know a six-year bill is in place,” said Brock at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in 2011. “But asphalt gets out there pretty quick. It is the top roof of a road, and the roof is leaking.”

Brock in 2012 was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. His son, Benjamin G. Brock, last year took the helm as company CEO.

“We announce this news with great sadness,” said Stephen Anderson, vice president of administration, in a statement. “Don was an inspirational leader, mentor and friend to countless customers and employees of Astec.”