By TAYLOR COOPER The Brunswick News http://www.thebrunswicknews.comWalter McNeely, a key figure in the Golden Isles community and a World War II Navy veteran, has passed away.
He leaves behind a legacy of community service and generosity that touched the lives of many people in the area.
McNeely was an active member of the community for 65 years. He served on the Glynn County Board of Education, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board, Coastal Area District Development Authority and the Glynn-Brunswick Hospital Authority. He was also one of the founding members of the 14 Black Men of Glynn.
William "Buck" Crosby was a friend of McNeely's and had experienced his generosity. Crosby got his first job thanks to McNeely, and to this day considers him something of a surrogate father.
"I knew him back when he first came here in 1949. I've known him since I was a student at Risley (High School), and I think he was one of the best things that has ever happened to Glynn County," Crosby said. "I think that he has helped more people in Glynn County than most people in the whole county have together. I know that he's helped people who don't even know that he helped them, because people came to him and asked him to help those people. His loyalty to the people of Glynn County will never be surpassed."
McNeely moved to Brunswick in 1949 after earning degrees in both chemistry and physics in order to save up money to pay his way through medical school. He wound up serving as the superintendent of Glynn County schools until 1991, when he retired.
"It was because of Mr. McNeely that we started baseball at Risley High School," Crosby said. "I am proud of him for the support that he has given to the boys of Glynn County and to me."
Woody Woodside, president of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, said McNeely became instant friends with everyone he came in contact with no matter their social or economic status.
"He's been widely respected not only in the county but statewide," Woodside said. "Everyone who came in contact with this man came to admire and respect him and his ability inspire people to be successful."
Mike Hodges, president of Ameris Bank, remembers McNeely as one of the driving forces that made integration a peaceful process in Glynn County.
"I thought he was one of the finest men I met in my entire life," Hodges said. "The biggest thing I remember about 'Mister Mac,' as we call him, is when I graduated. I was in the second graduating class of Brunswick High School, 1970 to 1971, and it was the first integrated graduating class. That was a real shock to the system, for white kids who grew up without black kids in school and for black kids that grew up without white kids in school, and there were people that made that year go well, and Walter McNeely would be at the top of that list. He helped that year, 1970 to 1971, from becoming a problem like it was in other cities."
In 2007, he was appointed to the Glynn-Brunswick Hospital Authority, and in 2014, McNeely was awarded the Georgia Hospital Association's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.
"Mr. McNeely has spent the majority of his life in service to improve the lives and circumstances of those who call Glynn County home," Gary Colberg, then president and chief executive officer of Southeast Georgia Health System, said upon giving McNeely the award. "He is loved and respected across the region for his decades of community service that have changed the lives of many."
McNeely was also awarded the Glenn Bryant Award by the Coastal Area District Development Authority in 2014. The award was given in recognition of his outstanding committment and service to the community.
In 2012, McNeely established the Walter C. McNeely Fund for Student Support Scholarship through a gift to the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation. The scholarship assists students with basic support needs directly related to college education.
McNeely's funeral arrangements will be announced by Hall, Jones and Brown Funeral Home.