Marianna native Olly Neal is a civil rights legend. Neal, a farmer’s son who served in Vietnam and stirred up a bunch of “good trouble” in the name of voting rights and economic equity in Memphis and Chicago, returned to Marianna to head up the Lee County Cooperative Clinic, a nonprofit that garnered national attention in the early 1970s in battles over health care access for the poor. The New York Times described him in 1971 as “a younger version of Charles Evers, the Mississippi leader. … Like Mr. Evers, he is open-faced and straightforward. He does not lower his eyes when he talks to white men.” Neal went on to become the first Black prosecuting attorney in Arkansas, was elected circuit court judge two years later and was then appointed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
His memoir, “Outspoken,” released in May by the University of Arkansas Press, is summarized by Neal as follows: “You might wonder if a community health clinic could actually be the spark that ignited a civil rights fire in a quiet Delta town. It was. Or you might not believe that an inexperienced health clinic director could become a civil rights bogeyman or hero depending on who you were talking to. I was. And it all happened in a flash.” Get the book here. SS