The news that Nashville attorney James F. Neal has died after a long struggle with cancer has elicited reaction and recollections from the local legal community and beyond:
"Both here at the firm and around the country, those who knew Jim Neal are mourning his passing. We will miss him greatly."
— Aubrey Harwell, partner with Neal at Neal & Harwell since 1971
"From early in his career Jim Neal became a lion of not only the Tennessee, but the National trial bar. His abilities rank him among the very finest trial lawyers in our history. He was always a tough but fair adversary and advocate for his client, and he has been a particular inspiration for me as a young, and now not so young, lawyer. We in Nashville will miss his presence immensely."
— Bob Walker, veteran litigator, Walker Tipps & Malone PLC
"It is much too simple just to say he was the consummate trial lawyer. He was truly unique... a giant without equal in his profession. The likes of him may never pass our way again. The profession, the justice system, the country, and all who knew him were blessed that he did come our way."
— Hal Hardin, former Davidson County Circuit Court Judge and United States Attorney
"Mr. Neal was one of my heroes and he was very kind to me when I left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to enter private practice. He always gave me invaluable advice in handling cases that would be receiving media attention. He will be truly missed."
— Peter Strianse, Tune, Entrekin & White PC
"Back in January, 2009, I had the privilege (and associated angst) to interview Jim Neal before the Rotary Club....
"Jim told many short war stories and charmed the audience with pithy remarks on the many issues associated with his 'cases.'
"But, in the end, someone asked Jim what it takes to be a great lawyer.
"Jim's answer, which I think summarized everything we discussed, was:
'You just have to work very hard to be as prepared as possible. You can always outwork the opposition. You don't have to be smarter, or cleverer, or trickier. You just have to be better prepared and have a good strategy.'
"Or words to this effect. But I think I've got it pretty close.
"Excellent words of advice to anyone in the legal profession — litigation, business, or otherwise.
"I'll always remember the sincerity and simplicity with which Jim answered that question. He meant it. It's true. And I believe it fairly reflects how Jim practiced law for so many years."
— Larry Papel, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
"Jim Neal was the first person I met when I was standing in line to enter Vanderbilt Law School, we graduated together in the same class of 1957, and have remained friends all these years. He was a true lawyer in the best sense of the word; a great prosecutor and equally a great defense lawyer. He made all of us proud to be lawyers who believe every one deserves a lawyer regardless of the charges. He will be missed not only by me but by the whole legal community. My sympathy is with Dianne and his children."
— George Barrett, Barrett Johnson LLC
"I consider myself lucky to have known Jim Neal. As a young courthouse reporter for Channel 2 in the 80’s, I was fortunate to get to cover the 'Dr. Nick' trial in Memphis. Now, nearly 30 years later, I remember the guidance he gave and the kindness he showed. And, I still remember his closing argument which he concluded to the jury with: 'God bless you, do your duty.' In the past 15 years, I have been blessed to sit at the table with Jim and Aubrey and learn not only more about the law but about leadership, character and integrity. Rest in peace, my friend, it is well deserved."
— Jeff Eller, former WKRN-TV reporter; vice chair, Public Strategies Inc., Austin, Texas
"Jim Neal was an attorney who considered all the facts and the law before making major legal decisions. He was a wonderful advocate who had all his bullets in his gun when he went to court. He made it seem easy, but he was a tireless worker, which explains his great success. He will be missed.
— David Raybin, Hollins, Raybin & Weissman P.C.
"I got to spend some time with Neal working on a story. We met for drinks, and he recounted some of his legal victories with relish, savoring a plump cigar clenched in his teeth. Anyone who sought to understand the workings of power — whether to muster them or to defy them — eventually made their way to Neal's door. With Jim Neal's passing, the defense finally rests."
—Brantley Hargrove, Nashville Scene, in a posting that recounts many of Neal's accomplishments
"I was in law school with Jim. Jim's hugely successful law practice is a testimonial to the results of diligent and thoughtful preparation.
— Richard Bird, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
"In 1977, Jim Neal successfully defended my father, Bronson Ingram, in a jury trial in Chicago. Had Jim Neal not prevailed, I’m sure my life would have been very different. It is not a stretch to say that no other person (other than my parents) has had a bigger influence over the outcome of my life. When Jim got sick, I told him this same sentiment in a letter. Jim was a great guy who will be missed by all."
— David Ingram, owner, Ingram Entertainment Inc. and DBI Beverage Inc.
"Jim Neal was a true legal giant and had a central role in the larger-than-life issues of the last half of the 20th Century. In his role as an Ingram Industries board member, he gave generously of his time — not only to impart his vast legal wisdom but to also emphasize an unwavering moral integrity as the underpinning of his advice. His personal kindness to me as a mentor and an ever-available counselor enriched my legal practice and my life."
— William P. Morelli, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, Ingram Industries Inc.
"I'll never forget the legendary Jim Neal (with his unlit signature stogie clamped between his teeth) taking me by the arm and pulling me aside at the State Museum's annual fundraising gala, A Tennessee Waltz, (held in the State Capitol) which he attended each year with his wife, Dianne, a very active member of the Museum's Foundation Board.
"He said in a confidential manner: ‘Leigh, this is a grand and glorious affair, but let's get it over with fast so that I can go home. You know, Dianne enjoys these kinds of things much more than I do.' I said, ‘Yes, sir, you've reminded me of that on many occasions.' He replied in his most commanding U.S. Marine Corps tone: ‘Well, tonight's not the night to forget it, young lady!'
"Jim was quick with a quip and had an engaging, charismatic, absolutely contagious laugh. He also had no qualms whatsoever about getting straight to the point. One was never uncertain where he stood on any subject; just one of the many things we all adored about him. I miss him already."
— Leigh R. Hendry, director, external affairs, Tennessee State Museum
"What a loss to our national Bar! I was honored to have been co-counsel with him on a number of cases, and to say he was a giant is indeed an understatement. His kind approach to his fellow man is a rarity in today's legal environment. I shall miss him as a friend and a mentor."
— Henry I. Frohsin, managing partner, Frohsin & Barger LLC, Birmingham, Ala.
"Jim Neal's triumphs in the courtroom on behalf of his clients are legendary and will be talked about by the bench and bar for decades to come. His success was built on his keen intelligence, a magnetic courtroom personality, and an unequaled appetite for the hard work upon which every case must be built. Those of us who had the privilege of meeting him in the courtroom understood that few could out-think him, and none could out-work him."
— Justice Bill Koch, Tennessee Supreme Court
"My friend Jim Neal was a classic American success story: A man who rose from a Tennessee farm to the top of his profession nationally, respected by his peers and a class act in everything he did.
"I hope that today some of the young people in Tennessee will reflect on his life's story and discover for themselves the unlimited future that America still offers each new generation.
"I first got to know Jim Neal in the 1980s, and had many opportunities to work with him over the years. One of the things that always impressed me was that his first consideration in anything was always what was best for Nashville, or for Tennessee. As busy as he was, he always found time to help me when I asked. I admired him and will miss him. Andrea and I offer our condolences to Dianne and the rest of Jim's family."
— Gov. Phil Bredesen
"Since the days of the Jimmy Hoffa trial, Jim Neal has been one of the nation’s finest and best known trial attorneys. He was often encouraged to seek public office and, had he chosen that path, he would have been a formidable candidate and would have served well."
— Sen. Lamar Alexander