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Jim Neal

Rewriting retirement

Neal remains active despite diagnosis of Parkinson's disease

Jim Neal ’64 was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago, but that hasn’t stopped him.  

“Part of my motivation is to show others that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease does not mean we stop living,” he says. “I wanted to stay active after retirement, and I believe you should find creative projects that are different from your career to keep you involved.”

Since retiring in 2000 from a 32-year career in alcohol and substance abuse treatment and prevention, Neal has continued to use his passion and knowledge of the topic to write and publish the book “Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Intervention and Treatment in South Carolina (1954-2004): A Synoptic History.”

Published in 2015, this book led to Neal’s recognition as Professional of the Year, awarded by the South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.

A history major at Wofford, Neal did not have plans to enter the health sector, but substance abuse prevention and treatment eventually became his ministry. 

“When I began, treatment was almost nonexistent and prevention was an idea with little evidence of success,” says Neal. “Some of the most rewarding moments include meeting the governor’s mandate for statewide accessibility to the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program as well as being elected president of the National Prevention Network of the S.C. Public Health Association.”

Neal has written two other books, one detailing South Carolina churches burned during the American Revolution and one featuring various historic United Methodist sites in the state. He has plans to write a fourth with his daughter, Pressley, a Presbyterian minister featuring Presbyterian churches in the South Carolina backcountry during the Revolution

“I was challenged by my old college roommate to begin writing the book on historic Methodist churches, and from there I’ve found things that have piqued my interest,” says Neal. “I began the book on substance abuse prevention and treatment after encouragement from my colleagues and never dreamed that it would result in an award of any sort. I was not emotionally prepared, and I am very humbled by the recognition.”

Neal is also thankful to his wife Barbara, to whom he has been married since 1965, and his two daughters and sons-in-law, Elizabeth ’94 and her husband Andy Hedgepath ’95, and Pressley and her husband Ben Cox.


by Kelsey Aylor ’18