Columbus attorney Neal Pope dies. funeral arrangements made

Columbus attorney Neal Pope, who served his clients by winning multimillion-dollar verdicts and served his country by leading a platoon of Marines during the Cuban Missile Crisis, has died.

Pope died Thursday of complications from blood clots at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where he had a heart transplant in 1993 and quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, niece Jill Tigner told the Ledger-Enquirer. He was 83.

His burial will be held Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 1104 Second Ave., Columbus. His pre-funeral burial will be a private ceremony at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery.

According to this bio on his law firm’s website Pope McGlamry, he was a lieutenant in the US Marine Corps when he took part in the October 1962 blockade of Cuba. He commanded a platoon on the USS Thuben that was part of the landing force.

Pope recalled this experience in a 2016 interview with LE:

“As I stood on the deck of the ship in 1962, with Cuba on the horizon, as far as I could see there were amphibious, that is, troop ships in all directions — not the carriers and the cruisers and destroyers, but troop ships,” he said. “I mean, it was horizon to horizon. That’s 25 miles. This whole flotilla could have been wiped out if it wasn’t for one thing. Documentation from the Soviet Union confirmed that Castro intended to use these tactical nuclear weapons, but Russia had insisted they would remain under their tactical control and would not agree to release them.”

Highlights of his 56-year legal career include a $50 million judgment in a 1982 wrongful death case and a $31 million judgment in a 2018 case of botched circumcision.

In 1991 Pope won for his client a Settling a $21 million lawsuit against Upjohn, the maker of the sleeping drug Halcion. Pope’s client claimed the drug’s intoxicating influence contributed to her shooting her mother.

Newsweek magazine featured Pope in its cover story on the controversy. Two days later, Pope was “fighting for my life” at St. Francis Hospital with his heart condition, he said in this 2016 interview.

Comparing this high and this low provided two valuable lessons:

“You’re just a piece of clay,” he said. “You have nothing special. You are just a heartbeat away from being nothing. It puts into perspective who we all are, and I tell my people all the time, ‘A litigator’s worst enemy is a thing called ego.’ i despise it I do my best to stomp it out in my attorneys.

“Second, none of us are as great as we think we are. We’re not fucking great as people think we are. We are what we are for the moment and as I said in my letter to my son, we look at life in terms of past memories, future hopes and present realities. The reality is that you better do what you will do, which you can be proud of today, because tomorrow you could be in this St. Francis with all those hoses and not be able to do anything.

Pope helped Teresa Tomlinson be elected Columbus’s first mayor in 2010 by giving her the career opportunity that brought her to the city, first as a clerk in 1990, then hiring her as an attorney in 1991. She worked with Pope for 16 years.

“Neal was bigger than life,” Tomlinson, who is now dating Hall Booth Smith, told the LE in an email. “He had this tremendous courage and audacity that made him an innovator in the legal profession and a person who could implement that innovation. He’s served for more clients than you can imagine – setting records, slaying dragons, and being a warrior for justice. He literally practiced until his death.”

Pope taught Tomlinson “to be brave in the face of overwhelming odds,” she said.

“You would accompany him to every fight because he had a thing and an endgame,” she said. “I almost died twice with Neal. Once on the plane, once in a taxi – both times he didn’t flinch. I remember him saying, ‘Teresa, I’m not going to die in the back seat of a cab.’ As a former Marine stationed at the Bay of Pigs who had a heart transplant in the ’90s and a (quadruple) bypass years later, I knew he was right.”

Virginia, the pope’s 46-year-old wife, noted that his burgeoning spirit transcended his health concerns, and she thanked Emory for giving him nearly three decades of life with a heart transplant.

“He was the most determined person I’ve ever met,” she told LE. “He never gave up. He had a positive attitude towards things. People liked him. … He loved people and treated everyone equally.”

Pope was also known for his organic farm, Neal Pope’s farm, in Salem, Alabama, where tomatoes and hemp are grown. The self-sufficient farm is powered by geothermal and solar energy and uses its own water from a reservoir. Auburn University and Alabama State University have done research on the farm.

This story was originally published Aug 15, 2022 11:19 am.

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Ledger-Enquirer contributor Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories on any compelling topic. He has reported in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter century. He welcomes your tips and questions about local news.

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