Published November 02, 2017
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.