Longtime labor leader, public servant James Neely dies



James Neely

Longtime AFL-CIO labor leader and former state commissioner James G. “Jim” Neely died June 14 after a bout with cancer at daughter Hope Turner’s home in Covington.

His funeral was Sunday at First United Methodist Church of Huntingdon of which he was a member. Burial was in Bethlehem Cemetery. He was a 50-year member of both the Scottish Rite and Al Chymia Shrine.

He graduated from Huntingdon high School where he was a student athlete and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin.

He was honored by his colleagues as 2007 Carroll Countian of the Year and in 2010 as Huntingdon’s Outstanding Citizen.

He received his start in his career as a bundle boy with Publix Shirt Corporation in Huntingdon where he also served as Union Steward with the Amalgated Clothing Workers. His career continued and he served for 28 years as President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

During his governmental service, he served as Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development under Governors Ray Blanton and Phil Bredesen.

As a US Government Representative on a Goodwill Mission trip to Germany, he met with foreign government leaders and members of NATO.

He served on a number of federal, state, regional, and local boards and commissions over the years. He was a member of the Workforce Development Board, TN State Employment Security Advisory Board and the TN Job Partnership Council, the TN Safety Congress Board of Directors, the Advisory Board for the Federal Reserve Board in Atlanta, the Executive Steering Committee of TN Center of Labor Management, the TN Technical Vocation Educational Council, and the Huntingdon Special School District Board of Education.

His career led him to be honored with many prestigious achievements such as the 2004 Eagle Award from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, 2005 Distinguish Service Individual of the Year by the National Association of Career Technical Education, 2007 Professional of the Year of TN Industrial Development Council, and 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the TN Labor Management Foundation.

In 2010 the TN Career Center on Mustang Dr. in Huntingdon was named for him.

Although he received many honors and accomplishments, he would always say that his greatest achievement was his family: his wife Rachel of 56 years; his daughter, Hope (Michael Neely Turner; and his three granddaughters Neely, Mary Catherine and Caroline.

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