Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Neal Walker, Rest in Peace

This is a picture that Billy and I always have up in our house. Neal's on the harmonica.

Photo by Ana Arien

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

O no. I knew Neal. What happened?

Karen said...

Me too ... I'm an old friend of Neal's from Lexington Kentucky, please, someone, tell me what happened to him ...

Karen said...

Karen again. My email address is kbermann@iastate.edu if you want to write to me privately. I would appreciate it so much.

NolaNik said...

I am sorry to say that Neal died of a heart attack. I wanted to wait until it was confirmed before I wrote. I will post funeral arrangements as soon as these are confirmed.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. I knew Neal first as a friend & later in the death penalty "community." Such a loss. Thanks for the great photo.

karen said...

Thanks, NolaNik, for the information. We needed to know. I'll write more soon about Neal. It's good to have this place of friends.

Anonymous said...

I am a dear friend of his fiance and was so shocked to hear of his death. What happened?

NolaNik said...

Sadly, Neal died of a heart attack. There will be a memorial for him at his home during Krewe du Vieux.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Karen said...

Wow.
Dear friends of Neal,
I am suffering over all of this this: Neal's death, the sense of mystery around it, and now this overdose post. I knew Neal for many years. I am not in the legal or death penalty worlds, and am far from Neal's community in New Orleans. It would be good to talk with others who love Neal, but I don't feel comfortable doing so on the blog. (here again is) my email address, kbermann@iastate.edu

Anonymous said...

I am so sad for Neal; so sad for those who loved him; so sad for New Orleans. Karen & I both knew Neal together when he lived in Kentucky. Then I knew him when I was a death penalty attorney in California. Somehow the not knowing what happened complicates the sadness. Wondering what would help.

NolaNik said...

From anonymous, deleted above:

"....It is obvious that this great man touched many lives. I did not know Neal personally, but I know his fiance. Her love was infectious for this great man who is gone too soon. It is obvious that Neal left a lasting impression on many people. My deepest sympathies and love to the entire family."

The particular details of Neal's death have not been confirmed, nor has the family released a statement. This should be respected. I will post the information re: his memorial today. I do not wish to offend, just respect. As to those who grieve here, I am so sorry that more specific, official news has not come. Perhaps you could come to the memorial and grieve with us.

amaanna said...

To all of Neal's friends
From: Anna, Neal's fiance.

Many thanks to the person who posts above. I appreciate your sensitivity for Neal and the family.

Neal was a beautiful, intelligent, loving man. I loved him with my whole heart. Our hearts are broken.

I find it difficult to put words to our loss. Please keep us in your thoughts.

There will be two memorial celebrations.

New Orleans:
Date: February 3rd
Time:4:30PM
Place: 2616 Royal Street
Corner of Franklin

Lexington KY:
Date: February 10th
Time: 3:30PM
Place: 612 Central Avenue
Near corner of Old Park and Central

Please pass this on. Thank you.

Anna amaanna@gmil.com

amaanna said...

clarification; amaanna@gmail.com

NolaNik said...

Thnak you so much for posting, Ana. It's Nikki, Billy Sothern's wife. I know that you don't know my alter ego in Blogger-land.

Phyllis said...

I first met Neal way back in 1995. We were representing codefendants in a capital murder case. As the story goes, my client hired Neal's client to kill my client's wife. It is a long and sordid story of the south, and racism, and poverty and lack of education. When Neal and I began, his poor impoverished illiterate black client was serving a death sentence and my white affluented educated client got life. A decade later, my client died in prison and Neal's client has a possibility of seeing the true light of freedom some day. This is where I began with Neal. And then we had a hurricane. There were lots of moments over the years between that first capital case we shared and the weeks and months after Katrina. But it is hard not to fast-forward. In 2003, Clive and I retried the first capital case Clive had tried in Louisiana - way back in 1993 Clive and Neal had tried it together. They got a death sentence then, but we stood on their shoulders in 2003 and got a life sentence - not because we were better or smarter, but because we could build on all they had done before. In the fall of 2005, after that damned hurricane, Neal, bless his heart, slept in a trailer in my yard with no water or electricity; but that was okay with Neal because the prisoners evacuated from the south Louisiana jails were so much worse off. We spent many many hours together round every clock figuring out how -- or trying to figure out how -- to make the stupid courts open their doors to the cries of the wrongely incarcerated after the storm. We joked, when there was nothing else to do. We bitched, when there was nothing else to do. But we kept on dadgum doing something -- cause somebody had to. In the fall of 2006, Neal (oh so private person though he always was) let me sleep at his house when I was down in Jefferson Parish, substituting in for him on a homicide there because he was swamped with other cases. His home -- his life -- in New Orleans was beautiful.
I miss Neal.
Phyllis

Karen said...

Phyllis reminded me. Neal’s house! Neal’s houses were always beautiful. I remember being surprised the first time I went to Neal’s house in Lexington. It wasn’t what I expected from any guy in his late 20s, especially not a wild one like Neal, who in addition to being wild was also a serious righteous lawyer, not an artist, and it changed the way I saw him. His house was full and spare at the same time, full of interesting things to look at that had clearly been curated, and yet there was plenty of open and quiet space where you could read, listen to music, think, drift. He paid attention to everything, but it wasn’t fussy. He had lots of art books that I used to get lost in and that he spent whole evenings getting lost in. He was one of those people who actually reads those big art books and was always telling me (trained as a designer) things I didn’t know. And his houses were colorful. In retrospect I think of Kandinsky and Frida Kahlo, both of whom he loved. The beauty of Neal’s house was not about display; it was about how he liked to live, the environment he made for himself, and it said so much about everything that was creative in Neal. And by creative I mean not just making things, but a way of being in the world. There was also the slightly magic feel of Neal’s house, a la Frida Kahlo and Kandinsky, the sense of play and of …
… Animism, the liveliness of inanimate objects (and environments). Making things: Neal made beautiful collages. We started playing together like this, with Mark and Jerzy in Lexington (Jerzy got us started) around 1981. We were surprised by Neal once again. He was a natural. His eye, his aesthetic, and he could talk about it all, too. His most famous collage was the one of Jesus in the temple with the moneylenders and an electric guitar. That collage WAS Neal for us. (That’s the only time I remember Neal talking about anything religious. He loved that particular Jesus …)
But he loved KRON too. Kron was, and still is, an ancient god we found on the sidewalk one day in Lexington. (Actually there was, and still is, a longstanding dispute about which of us found Kron. I swear it was me. Neal swore it was him. Obviously we both wanted to be part of the origin myth of Kron. I proposed a settlement: “We found him together!” which Neal rejected.) Kron was a stick about 5 inches tall, undeniably the incarnation of an ancient god, mighty and severe, a sort of Zeus of the stick-world. We agreed at least on joint custody of Kron when I moved away from Lexington, and Kron traveled back and forth in our luggage a few times in his official cookie tin between Lexington, San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans. I believe that Kron and his family are in Neal’s house now. At some point Susan West got involved with the Kronicles (this of course was Neal’s term). Perhaps it was she who found Kron’s noble and long-suffering wife, or Kron’s silly girlfriend, a flighty young twig … they had names too that must be recalled. Neal would remember their names now. Neal took them very seriously. Neal had a mythic imagination. Neal could PLAY like nobody’s business.
O Kron, help him now, O Kron, help us all, in our passage.

Anonymous said...

Neal seemed like such a healthy vibrant man. . . his death is confusing, maddening, frustrating and sad. It is so hard to imagine that such an extraordinary individual could so suddenly no longer be here.

Let all of our memories lighten our grief.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Neal grew up in a three-bedroom ranch in Russell Kentukcy with the Ohio River as his front yard. I knew him slightly through mutual friends Tommy Wilson and Andy Coiner. I am a local prosecutor who helped Neal's sister in obtaining a guardianship for their mother during her decline. He was well-thought of by those who knew him back in Russell, even those who did not agree with his death penalty position. One hell of a basketball player as anyone who ever tried to get a shot off against him at the Rusell YMCA can attest. Sympathies to family and friends.

Andrew T. Coiner said...

Neal befriended me when I was the new kid at Russell High School in 1970. Through the years we skipped school, played ball, debated, rocked, angered our parents and vigorously pursued happiness. Neal was the reason I went to law school and became a criminal defense lawyer. I would have followed his footsteps and attended Chase but my Mom said I probably couldn't get into UK, which I took as a dare. After UK I was again going to follow his footsteps into the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy but the funding didn't go through for the office in which I was going to work and my addiction to nice suits led me to private practice. There never has been and never will be a character as unique as the blue-eyed, bearded big man. I have always measured my intensity to fight injustice against his. I have always and will always come up short. But because of Neal I'll keep fighting.

Anonymous said...

We just wanted to say that our prayers go out to all of Neal's family and friends. We were only blessed to have known him for four years but the wisdom and extreme generosity of his time and patience for our son will always be remembered. Julie and Neal has worked many many hours trying to help my son get his life back.They give so very much of theirselves for no other reason than being truly humanitarian.We can never put into words the gratitude we feel for such unselfish generosity. We know that there are thousands of other families out there that feel the same way. We just feel blessed to have known such a special caring man. Our prayers are with your family now and forever Neal and may you rest in peace. Ken & Paula

Anonymous said...

Neal was my second cousin and I spent a lot of time at his house when I was growing up. I was so shocked to hear of his death. I sat down and read what his family and friends had said about him and cried for the loss. The first Thanksgiving after his mother died, he spent Thanksgiving with my mother, my father and I. I talked to him about his beliefs on the death penalty and he opened my eyes to things I never realized. His family in Russell, Ky is proud of his life.

Anonymous said...

imagine my dismay learning that R. Neal had passed away earlier this year. I'd left N.O. the year prior to Katrina but never ceased contact with him. Yes Neal should receive accolades for his humanitarian work, but for those of us who he allowed glimpses into his personal dark and sketchy world of troubles, pain and secrets, let us never forget he was like us all, a flawed individual. I loved him, and all of his imperfections.

jenny walker said...

neal

amaanna said...

Thanks to the understanding and compassion of Neal's imperfections- how sad it is to know that we cannot all be spared.

Anonymous said...

I was shocked to learn of Neal's death. I knew him briefly, but in that time I felt I knew him longer. I was a Mortician's assistant and crematory operator. We would discuss at length time of death, and things about postmortem evidence. We fell out of contact, and with Katrina and everything else I hadn't looked him up. My thoughts, prayers, and deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and Fiancee.
Sincerely,
Bridgette Siles

Anonymous said...

Kentucky Blue... thanks for the sweet life on Franklin Ave... best meal we served was on your dining room table...broke a leg but that's life... see you still...doll... RJ

Anonymous said...

I guess I am the last person to hear about Neal's death a year later, and it really hit me hard, because I was so sure our path's would cross again someday. We met as members of the basketball team at Pikeville College in Kentucky in 1971 and became quick friends. Though we were there for hoops, music was our thing. Neal's harmonica talent you speak of had not yet come out yet. But I was a guitar player in the campus rock band, and Neal was our occasional roadie (though he wasn't much at carrying stuff!!!). It is very sad, and yet makes me so proud to read of the many accomplishments he had in the legal field and how he impacted so many peoples lives. I don't know if he kept his faith, but we were members of the Student Christian Fellowship together. He was such a unique character, it doesn't suprise me to read of his greatness. Neal's friend, Rick Steele

amaanna said...

Still thinking about Neal. Wanted to just tell someone - I miss him.
A

NolaNik said...

It's been heard.

Anonymous said...

4 years after Katrina. Miss Neal. Listening to music.

amaanna said...

Still think of him every day. Still can't understand it. Still love him.

Anonymous said...

Watching Treme; wishing I could hear Neil's take on it.

amaanna said...

Me too

Anonymous said...

Still missing Neal and his wisdom & generosity. He truly inspired me to become a better person. Rest In Peace. You will never be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

I knew Neal briefly, so many, many years ago. He was a beautiful,
complex, and complicated man, and I treasure my memories of him.

We wandered in and out of touch for a few months, a year or so,
but thoughts of him still brighten my day, more than a decade later.
It was one such thought that led me to this blog and the sad, sad
news that he had passed.

My memories of him will be sharper now, honed by the knowledge that
our paths will not cross again. My condolences to his friends and
family - to those who knew and
loved him best.