CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — From mayor to county judge, Loyd Neal served in just about every capacity in Nueces county. To those that served with him, they can take a look around anywhere in this county and be reminded of him.
“Corpus Christi has lost one of the greatest leaders we ever had,” said former Nueces County Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn, who served with Neal
The day after Neal died, many of his former colleagues reflected on the kind of leader he was.
“It was how a true leader should be," said current Nueces County Commissioner Brent Chesney. "He worked with people behind the scenes to try to help facilitate things to not embarrass people, not shove things down their throat, but still able to get things done."
Chesney worked with Neal when he was mayor, then county judge.
“He taught us that you share success," former city council member Mark Scott, who served with Neal. "He always went out of his way to say 'No, it’s not me, it’s us.' The 'us' is the council 'us,' and but it’s also the community 'us'.”
And a lot of success there was. Scott said the list of what Neal has helped bring the community is too long to count, but among those accomplishments are the JFK Causeway, Whataburger Field, and the American Bank Center. Neal was also a proponent of the naval bases in Ingleside and Corpus Christi.
“Loyd said 'Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make a promise, we’re going to keep a promise, and then we’re going to move to the next promise,' " said Scott. "And that led to the first successful bond election to begin reconstructing all these streets.”
“He was a good mayor, but I think he was an even better county judge," Vaughn said. "And his appearance his demeanor, his voice — everything just commanded respect for him.”
Not many can remember a time Neal wasn’t working for the community.
“Even when he wasn’t an elected official he was involved," said former Corpus Christi mayor Joe McComb. "That’s what got him involved in politics was his involvement as a civic-minded citizen. Then when the opportunity came for him to run to be mayor, he did.”
Each of these former colleagues had the same description of who Neal was: Although he stood tall and looked intimidating, he couldn’t be a more caring and understanding man. And if your opinions differed, you were met with honest conversation.
“There were certainly times where we disagreed like public servants do," Chesney said. "It was always with great respect, great deference to each other's perspectives.”
They also recalled their favorite memories of Neal.
For Vaughn, it was the first few meetings in commissioners court.
“He intimidated me; he really did," she said. "Just the sound of his voice. But it did not take me very long to realize that underneath that demeanor was a kind compassionate man. Almost like a teddy bear.”
For Scott, it was a trip to Washington to talk about naval bases. While there, the two went for a morning run.
“I remember getting back, and people saying 'You really shouldn’t be running at 5:30, 6 in the morning in Washington.' I’m like, 'I'm running with Loyd Neal. No one is going to jump the 6-5 guy,' ” Scott said laughing.
Although gone, there’s hope the city will continue to remember that Neal lived a life of service.
“Maybe they’ll name the Harbor Bridge after him; who knows," Vaughn said. "That would be a great honor if they ever get the thing built.”
Chesney said flags at the county courthouse will be lowered to half staff, in Neal's honor.