Columbia (AP) – South Carolina Rep. Joe Neal, a pastor and staunch, decades-long advocate for the poor at the Statehouse, has died. He was 66.
Rep. John King, whose funeral home is handling the services, said Neal died Tuesday night at a Columbia hospital.
His House desk was draped in black Wednesday and adorned with vases of white roses and lilies. Legislators in both the House and Senate rose for a moment of silent prayer.
Neal’s death stunned legislators, who describe him as passionate yet never confrontational.
Neal was first elected to represent rural Richland County in 1992. The Hopkins Democrat was also pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chester.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says “Joe spent every day of his life trying to help those that had nothing.”