Whether in the classroom, TV studio or pulpit, James P. “JP” Neal has given a strong voice of purpose and hope to his community in Columbia, South Carolina. Neal is well known for having hosted WIS-TV’s award-winning “Awareness” show for more than 25 years, but he has also helped guide thousands of people as an ordained minister. During a 40-year period, he served several churches, including Gill Creek Baptist Church in Columbia and The White Oak Baptist Church No. 2 of Ridgeway, a church founded by his grandfather one year before the Civil War.
As he began his religious career in 1975, Neal also worked as director of community relations and special assistant to the state commissioner for minority affairs for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. He also held a variety of youth services roles, including acting as the state director for the South Carolina Department of Youth Services. Just after his graduation from Howard University, where he also later earned his Master of Arts in teaching, Neal was a science teacher and assistant principal at W.A. Perry Junior High School in Columbia.
Over the years, Neal brought his varied interests to the WIS-TV airwaves where he examined critical issues of race relations, education and minority economic development. When we wasn’t on camera, Neal put his talents to work on multiple boards, including the South Carolina Department of Youth Services, Victory Savings Bank and BB&T. He has also led the United Negro College Fund campaign in South Carolina, served as president of the South Carolina State Employees Association, was a Richland School District One commissioner, and he became the first black member of the Columbia Jaycees in 1967.
Neal has earned numerous awards, including honors from the NAACP, The Black Family Summit, Columbia Urban League, and Gov. Jim Hodges honored him with The Order of the Palmetto.