James Foster Neal (1929 – 2010) was viewed by many as the greatest, most successful trial lawyer in his lifetime. Mr. Neal was a mentor, strong leader, an inspiration to young lawyers, and a role model to everyone at Neal & Harwell. He was charming, articulate, and had huge credibility.
When Neal & Harwell was founded, Mr. Neal had already received national attention for his work as Special Assistant to United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy from 1961 to 1964 and the successful prosecution of Teamster Union president James Hoffa for jury tampering.
A native of Sumner County, Tennessee, Mr. Neal returned to Nashville to serve as United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee from 1964 to 1966. He then entered private practice for several years, co-founding Neal & Harwell with Aubrey B. Harwell in 1971. Soon, he was called again to Washington, D.C. to serve as Chief Trial Counsel of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force in 1973 and 1974. He was called back to Washington in 1982 to serve as Chief Counsel, United States Senate Select Committee to Study Undercover Operations of the Department of Justice.
Mr. Neal was associated with some of the country’s most notable legal cases including defense representation for Dr. George Nichopoulos (Elvis Presley’s physician), Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, the Ford Motor Company in the Pinto criminal trial, and Exxon Corporation in charges resulting from the Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill. He also served as private counsel for Vice President Albert Gore Jr. in the late 1990s. He was a lecturer at the Vanderbilt University School of Law from 1966 to 1979 (with leaves of absence in 1973 & 1974).
Mr. Neal attended the University of Wyoming on a football scholarship, graduating in 1952. He was an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps from 1952 to 1954, ultimately retiring from the Reserves as a Major. He graduated in 1957 from the Vanderbilt University School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Vanderbilt University Law Review and recipient of the Founders Medal, presented to the student who maintained the highest grade point average throughout law school. Mr. Neal is also a graduate of Georgetown University School of Law with a Master’s Degree.
James F. Neal passed away on October 21, 2010, leaving behind an indelible legacy of integrity and probity in public life, compassion and loyalty in private life, and diligence and dedication in all of his chosen endeavors. We continue to miss him each and every day.