Former Nueces County Judge and Corpus Christi Mayor Samuel “Loyd” Neal died Saturday. He was 85 years old.
He was first elected mayor in 1997 and served four terms. He was elected county leader in 2006 and served until the end of 2018.
Neal has been recognized as the driving force behind several major projects in South Texas over the decades, including the nearly $1 billion Harbor Bridge currently under construction, a naval base and Whataburger Field.
Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales, who succeeded Neal as county leader, said in a Facebook post Saturday that he has made many contributions to the community and that his impact is “felt in no any room”.
She wrote that she will always remember him swearing her in as Corpus Christi Port Authority Commissioner and later handing her the keys to the office as Nueces County Judge. As a gift, she says, he painted the office for her. It had been maroon, reflecting her dedication to Texas A&M University, while she was a “devoted Longhorn”.
“We were affiliated with different parties, styles and philosophies, but we shared a love for a great county and a passion to defend our service members and veterans,” Canales wrote. “He will be missed by his Nueces County family.”
Neal was hospitalized with pneumonia in 2018. At the time, he said it nearly took his life, according to a Caller-Times article published that year. Several years earlier, he had been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, which causes rapid muscle weakness and fatigue. As he struggled to recover from his pneumonia, he retired as a county judge at the end of 2018.
Neal has volunteered for a number of community organizations – such as Driscoll Children’s Hospital and the Boy Scouts of America – and has been active in promoting new businesses and economic development and in supporting military installations in the region.
He was the first Chairman of the Board of Corpus Christi Area Economic Development Corp. in 1986 and chaired the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce from 1990 to early 1992. In 1984 and 1985 he also served as chairman of the South Texas Homeport Committee, which successfully lobbied for a naval warship and USS Lexington be housed at what would later become Naval Station Ingleside.
Joe McComb, a former Corpus Christi mayor who served as county commissioner while Neal was county judge – and who beat Neal in the Republican primary for county judge in 2002 before losing the race to Democrat Terry Shamsie – said Neal was a good man whose death represented “a great loss to the community”.
McComb, who was also Neal’s neighbor, described the former county judge as a “fun-loving guy”. Because of Neal’s military background, McComb said, “when he was in his official capacity as mayor and county judge, he didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense.
“If you took the time that you saw him do public stuff and doubled that down, it probably wouldn’t equal the time he really spent doing Corpus Christi stuff,” McComb said. . “He was a tireless worker on behalf of the City of Corpus Christi and Nueces County as a county judge. … He loved the community.