Former Weakley County Lawyer Bill Neese Killed in Car Accident
PARIS (July 16) – William R. Neese of Paris, who won distinction as an attorney and businessman in Tennessee and beyond, and whose charitable efforts elevated many of his neighbors, has died.
“Henry County and the State of Tennessee have lost an extraordinary leader and caring servant and steward of the public good,” a press release from Dresden attorney Roy Herron’s office noted.
Neese’s life was tragically taken on Saturday, July 16, about 9 p.m. by a truck that struck him near Paris after he and his beloved wife, Susan, had been listening to musician friends perform.
Neese was born on October 13, 1946, in San Bernardino, California, but he grew up in Henry County and in Tennessee. His parents were Fred Talley Neese and Martha Morris Neese.
He graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin, then in 1972 from the University of Tennessee College of Law. He first practiced with the Strawbridge Law Firm in Dresden.
In 1974, he moved to Paris and “hung out his shingle.” Neese’s practice included numerous corporate clients and he served on the board of the Plumley Corporation for many years.
He also was appointed by the court and retained by many citizens charged with serious crimes. One local attorney opined that Bill Neese has tried more murder cases than the rest of the local bar combined.
One of Neese’s most notable cases was representing a 19-year-old African-American woman, Ms. Edna Stubblefield. Neese appealed her murder conviction arguing that the systematic exclusion of both blacks and women from Henry County juries deprived his client of a fair trial. Neese said at the time, “I didn’t enter the practice of law to be a crusader, but it has apparently turned out that way.” And what a crusader he was. Neese collaborated on the case with future United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Correspondence between Justice Ginsburg and Neese is in her papers.
Neese soon won distinction and clients as a trial lawyer and business advisor, and he continued in general law practice until 1983. That year, he purchased an interest in Henry County’s Replogle Lumber Company. Changing the name to Phoenix Lumber, he successfully managed the company for a number of years.
While still living in Paris, he returned to the practice of law by joining Dresden lawyers, first practicing with George Thomas until his retirement, then with Roy Herron and Nancy Miller-Herron. Neese served as the Weakley County Attorney for many years, as well as representing many area businesses, such as Henry County Spinks Clay Company and Lhoist North America. Many businesses and attorneys depended on him, and his peers considered him the preeminent business lawyer in the region.
In 2008, Neese and his daughter, Ellen Neese Adams, established Henry County’s first father and daughter law firm. Neese Law Firm specializes in business law and real estate matters.
Among the statewide bar, Neese was considered a leader. He was selected as a prestigious Tennessee Bar Foundation Fellow, a distinction held by very few.
Outside the law, Neese was a Renaissance man. His many hobbies included many forms of transportation, such as flying, sailing, motorcycle riding and horsemanship.
He was an avid hunter and shooter and extremely accurate with both pistols and long guns. He was asked to coach the Henry County “No Fly” clay target teams. One of his greatest joys was leading the young shooters to titles and awards every year for nine years, including national championships. Many of “Mr. Bill’s” shooters earned college scholarships with their outstanding skills.
Neese also was a skilled writer, and not just in the law. So that his grandsons would know more about their history, Neese began writing stories about growing up in Whitlock. That soon led to his publishing many works in “My Paris” magazine.
Described as a kind and generous man, Neese was dedicated to serving neighbors in need. He worked with the Phases to Freedom organization and helped facilitate the building of a home for women and children. Following the example of Scott, Mandy and Liam McDevitt, he helped fight hunger and food insecurity by building and organizing the county’s Little Pantries where hungry citizens can find sustenance. Neese took particular satisfaction in buying property by his and Susan’s home on Blanton Street in Paris and turning it into a park and playground for children, complete with a large basketball court, a soccer field with a full-size goal, and rope swing from a large tree.
Neese served on many boards, including the Henry County Healthcare Foundation. Neese also served his church, the First United Methodist Church of Paris. At the time of his death, he chaired its Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. He was extremely grateful to serve with the church’s exceptional pastor, the Reverend Joy Weathersbee, and her husband, the Reverend Dan Weathersbee.
Neese excelled outside the home, but he was unmatched as Susan Indergard Neese’s devoted husband of 54 years, the supportive father of Ellen Neese Adams (Josh), and the doting and teaching grandfather of his special boys, Jackson Taylor Adams and William Buchanan “Buck” Adams. His enormous pride in his exceptional daughter only soared with the blessings of his and Susan’s grandsons. They were the greatest treasures of his life.
He leaves behind many dear cousins, both Neese and Morris, and many wonderful friends, including Rick and Paula Chaffin, Nancy and Roy Herron, Joy and Dan Weathersbee.
Services are 1 p.m. Friday, July 22, 2022, at the Paris First United Methodist Church, located at 101 East Blythe St., Paris. Burial will follow at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation is from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at McEvoy Funeral Home; and from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Paris First United Methodist Church.
Those wishing to remember Neese may make a contribution to any of the following:
The Little Pantries of Henry County
C/O First United Methodist Church
PO Box 25
Paris, TN 38242
Henry County No Fly Zone
Holly Fork Shooting Complex
Attn: Mark Watkins, Treasurer
6133 Hwy 79 N
Paris, TN 38242
Pastor’s Benevolent Fund
First United Methodist Church
PO Box 25
Paris, TN 38242.