NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Outside the courtroom, James F. Neal had an amiable, backslapping way with friends and foes alike. Inside the chamber, the face of one of America's greatest trial lawyers often became fixed in a steely gaze.
The attorney who regularly grabbed national headlines — whether prosecuting Jimmy Hoffa or key Watergate figures, or defending Elvis Presley's doctor or the Exxon Corp. after the Alaska oil spill — died Thursday night. He was 81.
Law partner Aubrey Harwell said today that Neal died at a Nashville hospital after a monthslong battle against cancer.
In the words of Fred Thompson, already a lawyer in real life before he became one on TV, "Jim Neal was the greatest trial lawyer of his time."
For former Vice President Al Gore, Neal was a "brilliant attorney" and close friend. "As a prosecutor, he served our nation with brilliance and dedication at a time when his skill was greatly needed by the American people," Gore said in a statement.