3 Weeks ago we lost a Great Man
Local & National News | September 19, 2020
by: Nicole Re
Nicole Re shares this personal tribute for an amazing life. The lesson, live a life worth being remembered!

"Ol Coach." Jack Donald McNeil, age 87, of Memphis, TN, died on Thursday, August 27, 2020

3 weeks ago we lost a great man. We are just finding out that there will be no memorial for him so I am leaving this post in memory of my good friend, attorney, and "Ol Coach." Jack Donald McNeil, age 87, of Memphis, TN, died on Thursday, August 27, 2020, after a short battle with cancer.

Jack was born during the Great Depression at home in downtown Memphis to Ona Beatrice Force and Joseph Nelson McNeil. He spent his early years playing hooky from school and wading in the Mississippi River. After those shenanigans, he was sent to live with his grandmother in Hillsville, TN, where he learned to plant crops, shoe horses, milk cows, pick cotton – and read by a kerosene lamp. He attended Harmony Baptist Church and graduated from Haywood County High School where he was class Vice President and Cheerleader.

After graduation, he attended the University of Tennessee, at Martin, to become a choir director. Later, he transferred to the University of Memphis and studied Money and Banking. During his time at the University of Memphis, he was on the tennis team, debate team, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, contributing author to the school magazine, and was later the National Alumni President. While on the debate team he met his future wife Carolyn Pruette.

He paid for his own education by having various jobs, including working on a river barge and hitchhiking to Alaska to look for gold but ended up guarding a salmon stream. After graduation, he left for Honolulu, HI, where he served two years in the Army. Upon returning to the mainland, he attended Vanderbilt Law School where he was on the Law Review, Student Honor Council, Law Day Chairman, and was the President of Phi Alpha Delta Fraternity. He had a deep respect for the beauty of the law, the Constitution, and Civil Rights for all. He enjoyed every aspect of being a lawyer - investigating the scene, talking to witnesses, and presenting his case to the jury. He presented oral arguments up until 2 years ago and settled his last case this year.

He was happy to listen to others and their legal questions and was curious and supportive of his office mates. Jack represented Coretta Scott King and James Earl Ray in the rifle testing procedures during his long and interesting law career.

Jack’s passions were politics, poetry and writing plays. He first served in the Tennessee Legislature as a state representative. Later, he served as a City Councilman in Memphis, where he was instrumental in saving Beale Street from demolition. Jack was the author of endless poems and his best-known works are published in his Writings on the Wall and Beale Street Poetry books.

He frequently recited classic poems from Shelly and Shakespeare from memory. He also wrote historical plays about Lincoln, the trial of Aaron Burr, Benedict Arnold, and Martin Luther King. He was the Seeker of Truth in his musical play Sing for King and received rave reviews.
Jack was an avid tennis player and still played a competitive game until the recent past. He coached a National AAU Basketball team and gave out dribble blinders for basketball at every opportunity.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN, 38103

Click here to Donate


– Coretta Scott King, National Civil Rights Museum National Freedom Award Recipient

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