Former Philadelphian and Retired NBC News space correspondent, producer and executive Roy Neal, passed away early Friday morning, August 15, 2003 at the High Point, North Carolina Regional Hospital. He was 82. Neal underwent major heart surgery on August 12th.
Recognized as a leading news expert in spaceflight and science, Neal was born Roy N. Hinkel. He covered all of the Mercury missions for NBC and later reported the Gemini and Apollo missions and the early space shuttle flights. His space news experience led him to become involved with the Space Amateur Radio EXperiment (SAREX)--now the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program.
It was Roy Neal along with Frank McGee, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley who spearheaded NBC-TV's space coverage. During the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, it was Roy Neal who served as the pool reporter in mission control.
ARISS, a joint project of ARRL, AMSAT and NASA, put Amateur Radio aboard space shuttles and developed the first permanent ham station in space aboard the ISS. Neal chaired the SAREX/ARISS Working Group and moderated ARISS international team gatherings and, quite often, school group contact teleconferences.
However, Roy Neal also covered political conventions from Kennedy thru Nixon. He also did many, many pieces for the NBC Nightly News and "The Today Show."
Earlier this year, he was inducted into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame for his role in persuading NASA officials to allow Amateur Radio operation from space in the 1980s.
Neal also was a regular visitor and sometime presenter at Hamvention. He hosted the 1987 ARRL video production, New World Of Amateur Radio, an overview of ham radio in space.
During his college days at the University of Pennsylvania (Neal was a graduate of the school), he wrote for the school's paper, "The Daily Pennsylvanian." He claimed that he took just about every English course possible at the college.
A Delaware Valley native, Neal's broadcasting career began at WIBG radio in Philadelphia in 1941 (hired by Doug Arthur). He eventually became News Editor and Chief Announcer for the station.
Roy appeared on network radio before that time. In 1940, he had a chance to work on network radio. When KYW, a powerful, NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, decided to originate “The Lost Continent,” the story of a group of boy scouts who got lost on a lost piece of land, Roy was one of the scouts! The show aired on NBC radio immediately following “Jack Armstrong,” Monday through Friday.
He served as an army combat infantry officer during World War II and later became a program manager for the Armed Forces Radio Network in Europe. From 1943 to 1946, Roy Neal did the Phillies broadcasts with By Saam. Roy replaced Taylor Grant on the baseball programs.
After the war, he was a television pioneer at WPTZ, Channel 3 in Philadelphia (now KYW-TV) from 1947 to 1952. When Ernie Kovacs did the local morning show on Channel 3, Roy Neal was his newsman. He subsequently set up NBC's West Coast news bureau. He stayed with NBC until his retirement in 1986.
Shortly thereafter, Roy and his wife moved to North Carolina. It was there that Neal established his own company, Talent Connection. For his company, Roy wrote, produced and narrated programs for Douglas Aircraft, The Mercury Seven Foundation, WXII (a local TV station) and the NBC O&O stations. He also taught television for several years at High Point University. Neal continued anchoring into the 21st century with his ever-brilliant commentary for the Tournament of Roses Parades. He was also a public relations consultant for a local North Carolina firm.
Roy Neal was very supportive of this website and has supplied us with countless photos, information and the first three chapters of his unfinished book. Roy told Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson about his friendship with the astronauts. Neal mentioned that many astronauts had visited his home and played ball with his children. Wilkinson said that although he never met Roy but only conversed through the Internet and telephone, he considered Roy a dear friend. "He will be missed." Roy was survived by his wife Pat (nee McBride) and sons David (a producer for NBC-TV) and Mark (an independent TV producer).
On Friday evening, November 18, 2011, Roy Neal was inducted posthumously into the Broadcast Pioneers' Hall of Fame.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Bio written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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