Sworn into office in January 1981, McNeil was the first African American member of the Sanford City Council. He served faithfully and consecutively for 33 years and was last re-elected in November 2011. McNeil served three terms as Mayor Pro Tem: December 1993 through December 1997 and December 2005 through December 2007.
McNeil was appointed to the Board of Directors of the N.C. League of Municipalities for 2005-06. As a board member, McNeil represented and advocated for the seventh district, which includes the cities and towns in Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Hoke, Moore, Sampson, and Scotland counties.
A tireless champion of Sanford and its residents, McNeil started Sanford’s National Night Out crime prevention program in 1993. He was a guiding force in bringing parks to local neighborhoods. The Walter H. McNeil, Jr Park in Ward 4 was named after him by the community as a show of gratitude for his support and dedication.
McNeil was a retired educator who received his B.A. in Education from Winston-Salem State University and an M.A. in Administration from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. He is survived by his wife Billie and son Michael.