From the African-American Registry:
Theodore McNeal was born on this date in 1905. He was an African-American Union organizer and politician.
From Helena, Arkansas, after graduating from high school in his hometown, he moved to St. Louis working at a ceramics and brick plant. A few years later, he took a temporary position working on a Pullman car. In 1930 McNeal was one of the first St. Louis-area Pullman-car workers to join the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Seven years later, McNeal and other union officials succeeded in signing a hard-earned contract between the Pullman Company and the brotherhood, a promised agreement between a large American company and a predominantly Black union.
Read an interview with Theodore McNeal, free from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
McNeal joined the national staff of the union as a field representative and chief negotiator, and in 1950 he became national vice president of the union. During World War II, he began promoting fair-employment practices for Blacks in St. Louis. McNeal had earned some local recognition as a civil rights leader when he decided, at the age of fifty-four, to enter politics. In 1960 he challenged incumbent senator Edward J. “Jellyroll” Hogan for his Seventh District senate seat and defeated Hogan in the Democratic Primary by a six-to-one ratio. Thus he became the first African-American elected to the Missouri Senate.
For the next ten years McNeal served with distinction. He led the passage of the Fair Employment Practices Act (1961); he supported the creation of the University of Missouri-St. Louis (1964); and he helped in the passage of the state Civil Rights Code (1965). In 1970 McNeal retired from politics and accepted an appointment from to the University of Missouri's governing board. McNeal resigned from the board in 1973 to become president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners.
McNeal's numerous awards and honors included honorary degrees from the University of Missouri, Lincoln University, and Lindenwood University. He died on October 25, 1982, following a lengthy illness.