Joseph McNeil is one of the original four who took part in the Woolworth sit-ins. A Wilmington native, he graduated from Williston Senior High School and attended North Carolina A&T State University on a full scholarship. McNeil and three other A&T freshmen are known as the “Greensboro Four” and credited for initiating the sit-in movement when they sat down at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro on February 1st, 2960 and requested service. He then became involved in the formation of the Student Executive Committee for Justice, a student group created in response to the sit-ins. McNeil also participated in negotiations between student protestors, Woolworth’s management, and the Human Relations Commission.
McNeil was in ROTC while at A&T and graduated in 1963 with a degree in engineering physics and was commissioned by the U.S. Airforce. After working briefly as an investment banker, he joined the Federal Aviation Administration but remained involved in the Air Force Reserve. He retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of major general. Two years later, he retired from the Federal Aviation Administration, after serving over 15 years as head of the Flight Standards Division for the Easter Region in Jamaica.
After retirement, he remained involved in numerous civic activities and community organizations in Hempstead, New York. He is married to the forma Ina Brown and they have five children.