| George Edison Neel, Jr.
(Texas businessman, rancher,
|Born|| May 14, 1930 |
Laredo, Texas, USA
|Died|| March 22, 2015 (aged 84) |
|Spouse|| Ann Hughes Neel (married 1958–2015, his death)
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1953-1954|
His Neel Title Company was founded in 1925 in Laredo by George Neel, Sr. (1893–1963), who with his wife and Neel Jr.'s mother, the former Selma "Cricket" Rotan (1901–1987), relocated to Laredo in an early Ford car. At the time, the road to Laredo was essentially two ruts in the dirt with room only for one-way traffic. The Neels came from Woodville in Tyler County in the timber country of southeastern Texas, at the urging of a brother of George, Sr., Culbertson B. "Bertie" Neel (1890-1965), an attorney and former county judge of Jasper County in East Texas, who had joined the Laredo firm, Mann, Neel & Mann and married the former Bessie Angelina "Bess" Mann (1899-1995), daughter of David G. Mann. The Neels divorced in 1935. They were in-laws of Texas state Representative Honoré Ligarde of Laredo, who was married to their daughter, Betty Jo, from 1946 until her death in 1973.
Bertie Neel urged his brother to relocate and to purchase the Henry Abstract Company in the Sames-Moore Building in downtown Laredo. Neel, Sr., kept the name "Henry Abstract." soon added other competitor companies to his operation, and opened a new modern office at 1219 Washington Street on December 21, 1956. At the time, nearly every Laredo business was located downtown, and street cars ran on a regular schedule.
As a 10-year-old, Neel became a delivery boy for the company. He graduated in 1947 from Martin High School in Laredo, at which he played football for the Martin Tigers, both offense and defense without player substitutions. He was years later named a "Tiger Legend." In 1952, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. In 1953, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and reached the rank of first lieutenant as the leader of a mortar platoon. He was stationed first in Japan and then South Korea and discharged in 1954. He obtained a master's degree in 1958 from the University of Texas at Austin and wanted to become a journalist.
In 1958, Neel married the former Elizabeth Ann Hughes (1935-2022), a native of Brady in McCulloch County in the Texas Hill Country; the couple moved to Laredo so that he could join his father, whose health had begun to decline, in the title company. When the senior Neel died five years later, George, Jr., his mother, and sister, Suzy Neel Mayo (1923-2018), ran the company. He subsequently bought out the other family members to become the sole owner of Neel Abstract, a name not adopted until 1961. The firm expanded south into Zapata County and subsequently into nearby LaSalle, Duval, and in 1973 Jim Hogg County.
In 2002, Neel and his sister filed suit against Killam Oil Company and Hurd Enterprises in a dispute over royalties due from oil and natural gas produced on two thousand acres in Webb County. The court affirmed the plaintiff's claim that Neel and Mayo owned one-sixteenth of the property in question.
In 1990, the company was renamed "Neel Title" because it sells title insurance, which protects a property owner against loss if it is later determined that the title he holds is erroneous. The title company researches the property, and the insurance company insures the title so that a buyer can ascertain that his property is transferable when sold. The company offers real estate closing services to builders, lenders, brokers, and the public at large. From 1970 to 1975, Neel was president of the Texas Land Title Association.
In 1992, Neel Title opened its first branch office at Eden Park Plaza on Del Mar Boulevard near McPherson Road in Laredo. In 1999, Neel Title relocated to 1202 Welby Court off McPherson Road. With more than 17,000 square feet, the structure, designed by the Laredo architect James Lamar Humphries, is built in the style of Mediterranean Revival architecture with tile floors. Some company records dating to the 17th century are framed and adorn the office walls. These include land grant certificates from the Crown of Spain issued to South Texas pioneers and original 1881 land grants and signed deeds dating back to 1877. The Neel family holds an original land grant issued to Culbertson Neel for property in East Texas dated in the 1860s.
Neel operated ranches in Webb and McCulloch counties with Hereford cattle bloodlines dating back to the 1960s. He was a member of the Texas Hereford Association. He was an avid hunter. He developed petroleum and natural gas on his lands to track the Eagle Ford Shale boom. He was the 1965 president of Laredo Rotary International.
Neel converted his longstanding interest in writing to an avocation. He published short stories, many of a western theme with a character cowboy "Joe Monohan." He also worked on a lengthy novel about a Marine Corps platoon leader in South Korea. He wrote a 16-page short story on the same theme, "The Way It Had to Be," carried in the Fall 2011 issue of Conchos River Review, a publication of the English Department at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.
Neel won many community honors, including the 2014 "Rancher Businessman of the Year" by the Webb County Soil Conservation District. He was also named "Rancher of the Year" much earlier by the Laredo International Fair and Exposition, "Conservationist of the Year" by the Laredo Chamber of Commerce, in 2013, he garnered the first ever "Cornerstone Award" from the Laredo Builders Association.
Ann and George Neel had three children, George, III, and wife Rosie, Parker Jefferson Neel (born 1962) and wife Lori, and Nina Neel Sanders and husband, Jeffrey. Parker Neel, a graduate of Baylor University and the South Texas College of Law in downtown Houston, joined his father in the business in 1988.
Neel died in Laredo at the age of eighty-four and is interred in the Episcopalian section of Laredo City Cemetery. He was an active member of the Episcopal Church in Laredo. Juan Lira, the 2015 Rotary president who also worked with Neel in the Marine Corps League, described his friend as "a very kind, caring individual. ... He was always so calm. It would always surprise me how calm he was."
On August 26, 2015, Neel received posthumous recognition as his son, Parker Neel, was named the "Laredo Businessperson of the Year." The ceremony at the Laredo Country Club was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Parker Neel said the honor is not only for himself and his father but his grandfather, George Neel, Sr., as well: "It all started when we moved to the desert of Laredo."
- "Neel Title reveals a colorful history," The Laredo Morning Times, undated 2001; accessed March 29, 2015; material no longer accessible on-line.
- Bess Mann Neel. Laredo Morning Times on findagrave.com (March 21, 1995). Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
- Chuck Owen (1940-2012), "Family of Titles Three generations track histories of property ownership," The Laredo Morning Times, accessed March 29, 2015; article no longer accessible on-line.
- George E. Neel, Jr.. Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
- Elizabeth Hughes Neel. The Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on August 14, 2022.
- Neel v. Killam Oil Co.. Leagle.com (September 4, 2002). Retrieved on July 2, 2020.
- Gabriela A. Treviño, "Prolific local passes," The Laredo Morning Times, March 28, 2015.
- Judith Rayo, "2015 Businessperson of the Year: Neel Family Legacy: Chamber event August 26," Laredo Morning Times, July 31, 2015, pp. 1, 14A.
- María Eugenia Guerra (March 2012). George Neel, Jr.'s short story – a literary whopper told on the eve of departing for the Korean conflict. LareDos. Retrieved on March 29, 2015; publication since ended.
- Laredo Builders Association First Annual Cornerstone Award Ceremony. cuellar.house.gov (October 26, 2013). Retrieved on July 2, 2020.