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Joe McNeil

Veterans in Blue 2017

Retired Maj. Gen. Joe McNeil poses for a photo for the Air Force's 2017 Veterans in Blue series. McNeil commissioned into the Air Force in 1963 and served until his retirement in 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Schester)

Joe McNeil and three of his friends sat down at a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter Feb. 1, 1960, sparking a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality while paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. McNeil not only made history as a member of the “Greensboro Four” as a college student, but his core values also laid the foundation for a successful career as an Air Force officer. McNeil commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1963 through the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He served on active duty as a KC-135 navigator at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, until switching to the Air Force Reserve in 1969. During his 32-year reservist career, he held numerous positions of leadership, ultimately retiring as the mobilization assistant to the Air Force Reserve commander at the rank of major general in 2001.