Leon  Neel


Thomasville native Leon Neel passed away on May 13, 2019. The son of Nelle Howell Neel and Wallace Heard Neel, Leon was born in Miami, Florida on March 20, 1927. He was a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and renowned conservationist, with many accolades praising the work he did here in the Red Hills region. Leon married Hazel Julia Greene in 1948 and graduated from the University of Georgia forestry school in 1950. He returned to southwest Georgia after graduation and soon began working for Herbert Stoddard, one of the founding members of the modern discipline of wildlife biology, mostly known for his study of bobwhite quail. Together, Stoddard and Neel refined a system of forest management based on ecological principles that integrated wildlife, timber, prescribed fire, aesthetics and conservation. At one time, Stoddard and Neel managed approximately 300,000 acres of longleaf pine forests in the premier quail plantations of South Georgia and North Florida. Today, these lands represent some of the best remaining examples of the longleaf pine ecosystem that have become synonymous with the Red Hills region. Leon received the Florida Conservationist of the Year award in 1995, the Georgia Conservationist of the Year award in 2001, and in 2009 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Leon was also a co-founder of Tall Timbers Research Station in 1958 and also served on the Board of Directors for the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway in Newton, Georgia. Leon was a forester and a self-proclaimed tree-hugger. He had a heart for all of God's creatures big - like gopher tortoise big - and small, like a nest of baby fox squirrels. His appreciation for nature was not limited to land - he loved fly fishing and saltwater sports and was a founding member of the Beachton Yacht Club, in which he served as the first Vice Commodore. He loved things he could see obviously, like birdwatching from his favorite birdwatching chair, next to his favorite birdwatching girl. He loved things equally obscure, like collecting the Hairstreak butterfly, and today his collection can be viewed at the Carnegie Museum in Philadelphia. But what he loved most was joking with his family and educating them on the land and how to take care of her. Leon is survived by his wife of 70 years, Julia Neel, and his two daughters and their spouses, Julie Neel Horne & Don Horne of Tallahassee, and Susie Neel Campbell & Terry Campbell of Panama City; and grandchildren and their spouses, Holli Maddox, Neel and Keri Campbell, Clay and Callie Sewell, and Eliza Horne; and great grandchildren Landon Campbell, Bennett Campbell, Kenley Maddox, Lainey Maddox, and Trip Sewell. In lieu of flowers, donations to his memory may be made to the Hospice of Southwest Georgia, 114 A Mimosa Drive, Thomasville, Georgia 31792. Please visit his online life tribute page at www.allenfh.com
Published on May 15, 2019
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4 posts

Frank Cole
Jun 08, 2019
Like so many others, JUNE and I have been so richly blessed by the love and enthusiasm for life that Leon and Julie exudes. It has taken me some time to “sort through “ the emotions of his graduation.

I have come to realize that loneliness is neither a weakness nor sin—— it is a God given emotion that frequently reminds us of how great was the gift that we had in Leon.

God bless the family.
Dr.Danny Culbreth
May 22, 2019
Mr. Neel was one of the most wonderful men I have ever met.....as a young veterinarian just out of school in the late 70’s he entrusted his beloved little Brittany spaniel Lady to me with a serious health problem.....God decided it wasn’t time to take Lady quite yet.....we became good friends from then on.My only regret is that I wasn’t able to spend more time with this wise man.......I pray that he and Lady are up in heaven having a 15 covey day.....Every time I come into Thomasville from the west and drive through Greenwood.......I remember Mr. Neel😊
Wallace (Bubba) Reed
May 20, 2019
I’ve known Leon Neel all my life. He was a great mentor to me for many years – always a teacher of the outdoors. He was a walking encyclopedia of plantation management when beside him in the woods. I think of him every spring when the pollen flows in the pine uplands and the smell of pine. Always will. He has taught so many so much! His contribution and leadership to the human race and to this part of the country is unsurpassed and carries on for generations to come by the example he has set.
Pat Sharman (from Dr. Walton’s office)
May 17, 2019
What a special man Mr. Neel was! We loved to see him & Mrs. Neel❤️ He kept us laughing and was such a gentleman!!! We will miss his smile & laughter❤️ Love to all the family