Rev. Earl Albert Neil (born December 17, 1935) is an Episcopal priest. He was the pastor of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church beginning in 1967, and served as the spiritual advisor to the Black Panther Party.
Neil was born December 17, 1935, in St. Paul, MN, to Earl W. and Katherine L. Neil. 1 After assignments in Kansas and Chicago, in 1967 he was installed as rector of St. Augustine's. He reached out to the BPP and became involved in some of their actions; St. Augustine's was the first church to support the BPP Free Breakfast for Children Program. Rev. Neil later compared the BPP free groceries program to the actions of Jesus. 5
On April 3, 1968, he became involved in a standoff. Heavily armed police demanded he give up some Panthers who were meeting in the church, and Rev. Neil refused.
Interview from KPFA about the standoff:
The next day, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Rev. Neil held a joint memorial service for MLK and BPP member Bobby Hutton, who was gunned down by police on April 6, 1968. 1
In 1971, Rev. Neil presided over the funeral of activist George Jackson; a crowd of 1,200 people gathered around the church. Speaking over loudspeakers, Neil blamed Jackson's death on "the system". 4
He also presided over funerals for Bobby Hutton, Captain Franko (Fred Diggs), Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter, Jonathan Jackson (George's brother), and in 1989, the funeral of Huey P. Newton.
Rev. Neil said of his involvement with the Black Panther Party:
"As a Black man, I was involved with the concerns that the Panther Party deals with from the time I left my mother's womb, whether I like it or not. And I believe that the crucial issue for Black people today is survival...I believe that the points in the program of the Black Panther Party are geared to this survival." 7
Neil left Oakland for New York in 1974 to take a job with the national Episcopal Church. From 1990 to 1993, he worked on the staff of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa as the country was working to end apartheid. 6
Links and References
- The Reverend Earl Albert Neil on espicopalarchives.org
- Installation Today Oakland Tribune November 26, 1967
- Newton Found Guilty Oakland Tribune September 9, 1968
- Crowd of 1,200 At Jackson Rites Oakland Tribune August 29, 1971
- Pathers' Meeting: Food for the Poor Oakland Tribune March 30, 1972
- Black Panther Party and Father Neil itsabouttimebpp.com
- Party Has Cleric On Its Side Jet Magazine September 26, 1968