WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On September 3, city council members will consider designating 3rd St. from Market St. to Davis St. in honor of retired Major General Joseph A. McNeil, a Wilmington native and civil rights pioneer. If approved, signs with McNeil’s name will appear on the street signs on 3rd St.
McNeil was one of four African American college students who, in 1960, sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter. It was a bold and defiant challenge to the store’s policy that denied service to non-white customers.
McNeil and three other freshmen at A&T State University gained national attention Feb. 1, 1960, following the lunch counter protest. The group, now known as the Greensboro Four, was instrumental in having the segregated laws of the nation changed so that African Americans could sit down and eat at lunch counters and any other public places.
If the resolution is approved, city council will also consider a resolution to pursue an application with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to similarly designate 3rd St. South of Market St., which is under NC DOT control. Mayor Bill Saffo says designating that portion of 3rd St. will require approval from the state.
“General McNeil played a major role in the civil rights movement and we are so proud to call him a Wilmingtonian,” Saffo says. “Honoring him with a street designation in our downtown will remind people of the great sacrifice and contribution that he made.”
McNeil is a graduate of Williston Senior High School and A&T State University in Greensboro. He currently resides in New York.