Saturday, June 15, 2024

Remembering the Westside Slugger

January 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Community

Remembering the Westside Slugger

Joe Neal is remembered with a loving tribute by his friend Claytee D. White.

What more is there to say? It has all been written: first Black Nevada State Senator … served 32 years … enlisted in the U.S. Air Force … championed civil rights for Blacks … fought for human rights for all … toiled as a voting rights champion … worked as an executive at Reynolds Electric … knew and applied Assembly rules with knowledge, wit, and aplomb … ensured hotels’ safety because of his advocacy for sprinklers … sought necessary tax increases from gaming.

Is there more? Let’s not forget that Joe Neal served as a community parent who would school anyone who sat still long enough to listen, read the books he suggested, and learned to engage with him in the critical thinking process.

If he was your friend, he forced you to think and not take the easy way out of a conversation/spirited discussion.

His faith in the possibilities of the Black community was firm, never wavering. His faith in Nevada was just as strong. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he served on the Board of the Clark County Economic Opportunity Board to secure federal funds for community programs.

Joe did not expect nor crave glory and accolades. He just worked hard expecting no rewards, merited or otherwise.

His boundless friendships included all races and classes. He was a friend to rich and poor; pacifists and Black Panthers; Democrat, independent and Republican; urban and rural; Nevadans and international.

Even as Joe campaigned in his latter Senate campaigns, he continued to knock on the doors of his constituents; never shying away from whatever criticism that might come up in an up-close and personal fashion.

We cannot forget that he loved his family and protected their privacy.

I believe that in a true Joe Neal fashion, right now he and John Lewis are high-fiving and having spirited discussions about the good trouble they engaged in that was never shared with any of us.

My friend, the Westside Slugger, Nevada State Senator, Guru, Freedom Fighter, Griot, rest in the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Claytee D. White is Director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries. She interviewed Joe Neal in 2006.

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