William Edward McNeill Jr. was born May 8, 1951, in Inman, South Carolina, where he was raised by his peach farmer father and his schoolteacher mother. Eddie’s father volunteered with the local fire department and took Eddie on calls with him. I guess you could say Eddie was raised to volunteer. After high school, Eddie went to the University of Georgia to be a landscape architect. His first year, he married Shirley, his high school sweetheart, and began a family. Upon graduation, he came back to Inman and taught school for 13 years before starting his own landscaping business. During this same time, he began volunteering for the local fire department and worked his way up the ranks to fire chief. In 1997, he turned his passion into a career, becoming the first paid fire chief at the Town of Campobello Fire Department.
Eddie and Shirley had three children, two sons and a daughter. Their family grew as each child married and collectively gave Eddie and Shirley seven grandchildren. Eddie was an active father in the lives of his children and an even more active grandfather. He loved riding his grandchildren around in the fire truck with him at various Christmas parades. He enjoyed when they would visit him at the fire station and he could show them all the trucks and run the sirens.
Eddie began to volunteer in 1976 and served for 45 years, the last 25 years as chief at Campobello Fire Department. He rarely missed a call or a chance to help someone. Eddie used his role as fire chief to positively influence the lives of those who needed to do community service. He would often counsel these individuals and try to help them turn their lives around.
Kids were always a soft spot for Eddie. He never wanted to see a kid go without. The biggest way he felt he could do this, and not be known, was to play the role of Santa. For years, the fire department would sponsor a family and show up at their house on Christmas Eve with a load of presents. He would go to surrounding fire departments and play Santa for the kids in those communities, too. Eddie’s love of the Santa role motivated him to begin the Town of Campobello’s Christmas parade.
Well known for his boisterous personality, when Eddie entered a room, everyone knew it. He never met a stranger and had a way to make new people feel at ease. Difficult situations were often made less stressful due to Eddie’s ability to make jokes or distract people’s focus. The town is quieter without him around, but reminders of him can be seen all around in the work he did for the community.