Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Neal, Joe, 1935-2020


Joseph M. Neal Jr. was born July 28, 1935. Senator Joe Neal shares many memories of his childhood in Mound, Louisiana. He recalls his mother leaving him and his older brother Willie with a woman named Bea so that she could go to Alexander to get a job. He and Willie were ages 2 and 4, respectively, and were frequently left on their own. Willie would leave periodically for hours at a time and come back with food. He eventually took Joe to meet the couple who were supplying the meals, Mary and Gowens Prayder. This couple took the two boys in and over time, the boys began to call them Momma and Daddy. School for the black children of the plantation was held in Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Joe attended classes there through fourth grade, and then was bussed to Thomas Town High and Elementary School. Joe's birth mother came out to Las Vegas and was followed by her oldest son in 1951 or '52. He returned to Louisiana in 1954 to bring Joe out West. Senator Neal recalls the stark dustiness of the landscape and the rental home he shared with his mother and other boarders on D Street. He tried his hand at several menial jobs and then took his brother's suggestion to join the Armed Forces in order to get a college education. Senator Neal relates the many opportunities that he experienced in the military, including working as an AP, undergoing desert survival training, and working at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico. After 4 years in the Air Force, Joe enrolled at Southern University in January of 1959. He had decided that he wanted to work for blacks in government after learning about Rosa Parks, the bus boycott, and the Little Rock situation. Joe shares his opinions on government principles, views on Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, details his running for a seat in the Nevada legislature and serving 32 years there as a state senator. He is proud of having authored and sponsored the state fire law, has strong views on whether to increase the grade point average for University students, and expresses his intention to see that government works for the people.