Joseph McNeil

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Joseph McNeil
Joseph A. McNeil-USAF 2000.JPG
Official U.S. Air Force Photo
Birth name Joseph Alfred McNeil
Born (1942-03-25) March 25, 1942 (age 77)
Wilmington, North Carolina
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1963–2000
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit 702d Airlift Squadron USAF - Emblem.png 702nd Military Airlift Squadron
Twenty-Second Air Force - Emblem.png 22nd Air Force
Commands held Unknown
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Operation Arc Light
Operation Young Tiger
Awards Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal (with 3 oak leaf clusters)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Commendation Medal
Air Force Achievement Medal
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal (with silver star)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (with bronze star)
Humanitarian Service Medal
Air Force Longevity Service Award (with 4 oak leaf clusters)
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Spouse(s) Ina (Brown) McNeil

Joseph Alfred McNeil (born March 25, 1942) is a retired Major general in the United States Air Force who is best known as a member of the Greensboro Four; a group of African American college students who, on February 1, 1960, sat down at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina challenging the store's policy of denying service to non-white customers.

Early life and education

McNeil was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on March 25, 1942.[1][2] He was president of his parish's Catholic Youth Council.[3] McNeil received his early education from Williston Senior High School and soon after graduation, his parents moved the family to New York.[4] McNeil entered North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, then the Agricultural & Technical College of North Carolina, having been awarded a Full scholarship.[1] A stark contrast from the more open northern society, McNeil found difficulty living in the segregated south.[5]

On February 1, 1960; McNeil, along with three other A&T freshmen: Ezell Blair, Jr., Franklin McCain and David Richmond (Activist), walked together from the university's library to the downtown Greensboro Woolworth store. Once there, the men purchased items from a desegregated counter, and then sat down at the "whites only" lunch counter where the group was refused service. McNeil and the group stayed until the store closed, and then left to return the next day.[6] as media coverage of the demonstrations grew, more protests were being staged through the state of North Carolina, and other Southern cities. As sales at boycotted stores began to be affected by the protests, store owners began to serve all customers in their establishments. After staging the sit-ins, McNeil became involved with the formation of the Student Executive Committee for Justice. This joint organization between A&T students and the women of nearby Bennett College, focused on the picketing of segregated downtown Greensboro establishments. McNeil would later participate in negotiations between student protesters, Woolworth’s management, and the Human Relations Commission.[7]

In 1963, McNeil would go on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering physics from North Carolina A&T and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the university's ROTC program.[1][2]

Military career

In July 1963, McNeil was assigned to James Connally Air Force Base near Waco, Texas for Training. From 1964 to 1969, McNeil was assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota where he served as a KC-135 navigator.[2] McNeil spent considerable time in Southeast Asia flying in operations Arc Lite and Young Tiger.[2] During this period, he was promoted to the ranks of First Lieutenant and Captain.[2] In 1972, McNeil served as a navigator instructor, flight commander, executive officer and Commander of the 702nd Military Airlift Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.[2] During this time he also served as a liaison officer in for the U.S. Air Force Academy.[2] In 1989, McNeil served as special assistant to the Vice Commander and Commander of the 514th Airlift Wing at McGuire Air Force Base. During this time, McNeil was promoted to the ranks of Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel.[2]

After leaving active duty in 1969 with the rank of captain, McNeil continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves. From 1992 to 1995, he served as Vice Commander, and later Commander of the 22nd Air Force stationed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia. He would also be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1994.[2] In August 1995, McNeil would serve as mobilization assistant to the Vice Commander, and later the commander, at the Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. In 2000, McNeil retired from the Air Force Reserves as a Major General, having been promoted to the rank in 1996. After a military career of over thirty seven years, and over 6,600 flight hours, he received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal upon retirement.[2]

Civilian career

As a traditional Reservist, McNeil was able to develop a civilian career while continuing to serve in the U.S. Air Force. McNeil established himself in the private and public sectors with time spent in corporate finance, investment banking and public services. McNeil joined the Federal Aviation Administration, where he served as assistant division manager of the administration's Eastern Region Flight Standards Division and the manager of the New York Flight Standards District Office.[8] In 2002, two years removed from his retirement from the military, McNeil retired from the Federal Aviation Administration, which he served for over 15 years.

Civilian honors and legacy

The A&T Four Statue on the campus of North Carolina A&T. (From Left: David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil


McNeil holds four honorary doctorates; a Doctor of Philosophy degree from his alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University in 1991; a Doctor of Laws degree from St. John's University in 1998; a Doctor of Humanities from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2010;[2][9] and a Doctor of Laws degree from Molloy College in 2015.

In 2002, North Carolina A&T commissioned a statue to be sculpted honoring McNeil, along with the three other members of the A&T four; Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond. In addition, the four men each have residence halls named for them on the university campus.[10] In 2010, McNeil was the recipient of the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal from the Smithsonian Institution.[11]

Personal life

McNeil is married to Ina McNeil (nee Brown). Brown, an accomplished American Indian quilt maker, is of Lakota descent and the great-great granddaughter of Chief Sitting Bull.[9] The two met while he was stationed in South Dakota, while working with an organization that exposed discriminatory housing practices in the state. The two were married in 1967, and together have 5 children.[2]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The A&T Four". F.D. Bluford Library Archives. North Carolina A&T State University. Retrieved 12 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 "Major General Joseph A. McNeil". United States Air Force website. U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 12 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Newman, Mark (July 2008). "Toward "Blessings of Liberty and Justice": The Catholic Church in North Carolina and Desegregation, 1945-1974". North Carolina Historical Review. 85 (3): 338. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Joseph McNeil Bio". Retrieved 24 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Joseph McNeil". Retrieved 13 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Greensboro Four", North Carolina Museum of History. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
  7. "Joseph McNeil Biography". Retrieved 20 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Joseph McNeil Biography". Civil Rights Digital Library. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 20 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 "UNC Wilmington to Award Honorary Doctorate to Joseph A. McNeil during Spring Commencement". University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Retrieved 20 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "A&T History". F.D. Bluford Library Archives website. NC A&T- Ferdinand D. Bluford Library. Retrieved 20 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Trescott, Jacqueline (5 February 2010). "50 years later, Greensboro Four get Smithsonian award for civil rights actions". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 20 June 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>