By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Local businessman James McNeil has never really asked for any recognition in exchange for the things he does to help make life better for residents of Atmore and the small, mostly rural communities that surround it. But people have apparently taken notice.
McNeil was honored recently by Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce with the organization’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, indicating that the recipient’s efforts have not been ignored or overlooked.
The local black leader is known for the energy he puts into the projects into which he becomes involved, as well as his moral and ethical demeanor.
“James is an enthusiastic and helpful individual who displays unwavering integrity,” said Atmore City Council member Eunice Johnson, the honoree’s sister and the person who presented the prestigious award to him. “He has simply been an inspiration to many and is a man of honor and respect. He adheres to what is right and holds himself to a high standard of conduct.”
Two of McNeil’s most current projects show his commitment and dedication to also preserving various aspects that are of historical importance to the black population of his hometown.
He has been involved in the renovations of First Baptist Church of McCullough, where he sits on the deacon board, and Liberty Baptist Church, where his father, Eugene McNeil, was a longtime church elder.
He also organized and is overseeing the ongoing construction of a memorial to Cornelia Elmore, who was instrumental in establishing the first public library for local residents of color.
Some of James McNeil’s other achievements:
*Married to Joanne McNeil for 47 years.
*Retired from Masland Carpets after 38-year career.
*Founder and owner of McNeil Square Townhouses and Apartments and McNeil Express general store.
*Founder of Concerned Citizens of Atmore.
*Former treasurer of local NAACP chapter.
*Member of The Small Group of America.
*Member of The Beautification Committee of Atmore.
*Has created signs for several local churches, including Pilgrim Rest Baptist, Mt. Olive Baptist, New Pleasant Hill Baptist and First Baptist-McCullough.
*Played a role in constructing gazebo at Houston Avery Park.