COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina Rep. Joe Neal, a pastor and staunch, decades-long advocate for the poor at the Statehouse, has died. He was 66.
Rep. John King, whose funeral home is handling the services, said Neal died Tuesday night at a hospital in Columbia.
Neal’s death stunned his colleagues, who described him as passionate yet never confrontational. A cause of death was not immediately known.
Neal was first elected to represent rural Richland County in 1992. The Hopkins Democrat was also pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Chester.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says “Joe spent every day of his life trying to help those that had nothing.”
Gov. Henry McMaster says Neal “gave voice to those without one, and stood tall for those who could not.”