At the John M. Langston Bar Association’s 24th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Robert H. McNeill, Jr., a founding partner of Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt, was recognized for his significant contributions to the legal community, the practice of law and the community at large for the past 36 years. During the ceremony, Katie Murff Trotter, Honorable H. Elizabeth Harris, William H. Hastie, Jr., and Honorable Bob Bowers, Jr., were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt co-founder Rickey Ivie was a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee. Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt is the largest and most successful Black-owned law firm in California.
Danny Bakewell, Sr., chairman of The Bakewell Company, which includes the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper, introduced his close friend and ally before a capacity crowd at the L.A. Hotel Downtown. “Bob has been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights for over five decades. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to desegregate lunch counters in Virginia in the 60s. He has tried and won some of the most high profile cases in this city’s history and has set precedent for many others. He is one of the great leaders of our time,” said Bakewell.
Growing up in North Carolina in the 1950s, McNeill aspired to be a lawyer but didn’t think it was realistic. “I went to segregated schools – elementary, junior high, high school and all the way up through college. I didn’t encounter Black lawyers. I saw [Black] school teachers, I saw preachers, and I saw a limited number of Black doctors,” said McNeill. “The only lawyer I saw was a television lawyer, and he was White. His name was Perry Mason. I wanted to be a trial lawyer like Perry Mason.”
After obtaining his undergraduate degree from Virginia State College in 1962, McNeill moved to California and began postgraduate studies in Public Administration at California State University, Los Angeles. McNeill’s legal aspirations became a reality in the late 70s when he earned his Juris Doctorate Degree from Southwestern University Law School and was admitted to the State Bar of California. When Judge Charles R. Scarlett received his judicial appointment in 1980, McNeill teamed up with attorney Rickey Ivie to take over the law practice originated by Judge Earl C. Broady, Judge Scarlett, and Judge Robert Roberson and formed Ivie and McNeill. In 1991, with the addition of name partner Keith Wyatt, the firm became Ivie, McNeill, and Wyatt.
McNeill has served as a Deputy City Attorney for the city of Los Angeles and as Deputy District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles. He was appointed to the Los Angeles County Commission on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in 1993 on the nomination of County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke and served more than three 4-year terms. McNeill served as a Deputy County Assessor from 1963 to 1977. He served as a member of the Los Angeles County Capital Case Fee Committee from 1993 to 1998 by appointment of the Honorable Patti Jo McKay, Supervising Judge of the Los Angeles Municipal Court. McNeill was appointed to the Board of Directors of the California Science Center in Exposition Park by California Governor Gray Davis in 2001.
As a trial lawyer, McNeill has successfully litigated death penalty cases, including one in which he obtained not guilty verdicts on all charges which consisted of four counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. He served as co-counsel in the successful litigation of a multimillion dollar health care class action lawsuit on behalf of insured men and women which settled and won a multimillion dollar award for the plaintiff. Most recently, McNeill provided legal counsel in a medical malpractice case against a major hospital and a personal injury case involving a motorcycle accident, both of which resulted in multimillion dollar awards for Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt’s clients. McNeill’s outstanding track record has earned him a lifetime membership in the prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, which is reserved for the country’s top trial lawyers who have won multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts.
After receiving his Hall of Fame award, McNeill said, “I’ve been fortunate to try major litigation involving major crimes and major personal injury cases during my career. I’ve seen a lot of things, and I just want to encourage everyone to press on and just be thankful for what you have.”