Margie Elizabeth Neal, first woman in the Texas Senate, was born near Clayton, Texas, on April 20, 1875, the second of four children of William Lafayette and Martha (Gholston) Neal. She lived in Carthage for most of her life. She attended, but did not graduate from, Sam Houston State Teachers College. After a short teaching career in Panola County and in Fort Worth she returned in 1903 to Carthage, where her father bought the Texas Mule, a weekly newspaper. With two men to do the mechanical work she became editor and publisher of the paper, which she immediately renamed the East Texas Register; she continued its publication until 1911, when she sold it. Her first public services to the state included appointment as the first woman member of the board of regents of the State Teachers Colleges (1921–27); district chairman in the fight for woman suffrage; first woman to register to vote in Panola County; first woman member of the State Democratic Executive Committee; and delegate to the national Democratic convention in San Francisco (1920). In 1926 she was elected from Panola County to the Texas Senate; she served four consecutive terms. She introduced the bill that established the State Board of Education, sponsored a bill that introduced public school physical education classes, and actively supported a bill that made the study of state and national constitutions mandatory. She was instrumental in the passage of legislation that appropriated the largest amount funded in Texas to that time for rural education and also helped secure legislation providing for the rehabilitation of handicapped persons. She was also on the board of the Texas Society for Crippled Children. In 1935 she continued her career in public affairs in Washington, D.C., working with the National Recovery Administration and the federal Social Security Administration. She transferred to Texas and worked in San Antonio and Dallas, where she was with the federal Manpower Commission as a community facilities analyst. She resigned in 1945 and returned to her home in Carthage, where she continued to participate in community affairs for many years. She never married. On June 15, 1952, an appreciation party was held in Carthage for Margie Neal; among the speakers honoring her were Lyndon Baines Johnson, then a United States senator, and Governor Allan Shivers. She died on December 19, 1971, in Carthage and was buried in Oddfellows Cemetery there.
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