The Honorable Senior Judge William Josiah Neville, age 93, passed away Thursday, September 15, at his home under the care of Gentiva Hospice.
The lively and loquacious judge was well–loved by friends and acquaintances in the community, and enjoyed sharing tales of history with others. He was often called upon as a speaker, as his recollections and tales of practicing law and serving as a judge were entertaining as well as informative.
Fondly called “Big Joe” by his family, Neville was appointed to the Superior Court Bench in April of 1984 and assumed senior statues on January 1, 1997, according to Internet website www.ogeecheecircuit.org
Before being appointed to the Superior Court Bench, Neville served as Statesboro’s municipal court judge; county attorney for Bulloch County; attorney for the Bulloch County Board of Education and was elected member of the Georgia House of Representatives.
He graduated from Mercer University and received his law degree from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University.
Friday, Neville’s friends and colleagues shared fond memories and respect.
“He was a great individual,” said Bulloch County Superior Court Chief William E. Woodrum. “I knew him for 36 years, practicing with him as a young lawyer then under him as a judge. As you sit back and think about Judge Neville – he was always respectful and patient. He would always evaluate each case with the utmost details.”
American Legion Dexter Allen Post 90 past commander Dan Foglio said Neville was always the star of the show when it came to Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day services. Foglio has been organizing the annual events for several years in Statesboro.
“I promised he would always be on the program,” he said. “The last time he wasn’t due to his health. I really have to say I loved that guy. I thought the world of him. He was always very helpful, advised me a lot, and was sort of like my mentor.”
Fellow Senior Judge Faye Sanders Martin recalled years of friendship and working together with Neville.
“He was a man of great leadership, talent and ability, she said. “He was an excellent trial lawyer. We had a very good relationship and he always worked diligently towards a good result. I enjoyed every day of working with him. He was a great judge.”
Statesboro attorney Lehman Franklin agreed.
“He was a good man, a very effective and efficient attorney,” he said. “Judge Neville was very effective at cross examining witnesses he had never interviewed. He taught me a lot – he was a very intellectual, very unusual person.”
Statesboro attorney Gerald Edenfield said one of Neville’s classmates told him Neville was “probably the smartest in his class.”
Working with Neville was “a very pleasant experience,” he said. “He was a very, very smart judge. He was always prepared, knew the issue, and had the ability to relate to people in the community. We always had furious battles in the courtroom – but walked out the best of friends.”
Neville’s nephew Lovett Bennett Jr. remembered his uncle’s lively personality, penchant for enfolding lessons into interesting stories, and love of people.
“Any time you were around Uncle Joe, he was going to teach you something,” he said.
“We will always be grateful for his guidance,” Woodrum said. “He was a mentor to me. He enjoyed what he did and was a very hard working judge. He always kept everything very simple – never complicated.”
Funeral arrangements for Neville had not been finalized as of Friday evening and will be announced later by Hodges-Moore Funeral Home.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.