CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Former WV Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Richard Neely died at his Charleston home Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, of recently diagnosed liver cancer, according to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. He was 79. Court officials say his wife, sons, and closest friends were with him when he died.
In a statement, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) called the former justice a “great legal mind, and a good and loyal friend.”
“Just learned Justice Richard Neely passed away. Justice Neely was a wonderful man, great legal mind, and a good and loyal friend to our family. Our thoughts go to Carolyn and the entire Neely family. I know Charlie and I will miss seeing Richard and Carolyn on their daily walks around Charleston. What a loss.”– U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
Neely served on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals from 1973-1995. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1964, and Yale Law School in 1967. He served as an army artillery captain in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 and was awarded a Bronze Star.
Following his service, Neely began his law practice in Fairmont before being elected to the West Virginia Legislature in 1970 and then to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in 1973. He was known for leading reform of state mental hospitals and juvenile penal schools, as well as pioneering work in domestic law.
Gayle and I send our heartfelt condolences to Justice Richard Neely’s wife Carolyn, his sons John and Whittaker, and their entire family. Richard has been a close family friend since his days as a young lawyer in Fairmont after returning from serving in Vietnam. Richard continued to give back to his community, serving in the House of Delegates and later becoming a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice, serving West Virginians until 1995. This is a sad day for all West Virginians, and our thoughts and prayers are with Richard’s family and loved ones who are mourning this loss.U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Neely also wrote several books as well as articles that appeared in national publications. At the time he took office in the WV Supreme Court of Appeals, Neely was the youngest judge of a court of last resort in the English-speaking world in the 20th century.
While serving as Chief Justice in 1985, Neely became part of a controversy after dismissing his secretary because she wanted to stop babysitting his then 4-year-old son. He defended his right to order his staff to perform duties such as babysitting but stepped down as Chief Justice before his rotation in the position ended.
Neely also taught economics at the University of Charleston for more than 10 years.
After retiring from the WV Supreme Court of Appeals in 1995, Neely opened his own private practice, now called Neely and Callaghan, in Charleston.
In 2019, Neely announced he would seek re-election to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals, but lost to incumbent Tim Armstead in the June 9, 2020 West Virginia Primary Election.