I am the younger brother of Gene McNeeley, I go by Bill. An elderly black gentleman named Joe Rice whom we affectionately called Uncle Joe, according tot the custom of the day, lived to the age of 99 at least. He knew Buck and said I was a "spitting image" of Buck. No trip to Tazewell to visit our Grandparents, Fielden and Hazel, was complete without a walk over to visit Uncle Joe. My grandfather, Fielden bought two graves in the Old Irish Cemetery for Uncle Joe and his wife. She preceded him in death by some thirty years which would make the purchase of the graves to have occurred around the early 1940's. To my knowledge, they are the only African Americans buried in the Irish Cemetery. (Pvt. John Kyle, USMC, VietNam Veteran, requested and is buried in the "Irish Memorial Gardens", just above my parents - Joe Payne)
The city / county had their eye to bulldoze my grandparent's house to make a parking lot for the courthouse. Eleanor Yoakum, whose father had owned Claiborne County Bank, still lives in Tazewell caught wind of the count commission's plans for the property. Claiborne Bank was next to, and across the street from my grandfather's grocery store. He loaned my father $3,500 to buy an old farmhouse in Norris, Tennessee where my father, Gene practiced medicine from 1948 to 1953. Physisians. It was Eleanor's efforts that saved the building by registering the house as a landmark. My father gave the Weir House to Claiborne County in 1982 as part of a trust to be used as a "library, museum or for other historical purposes". He told me he was relieved to no longer have to worry about his childhood home falling in on itself or being burned by transients or whomever. It was used as a library for 18 years. My family and I moved to Knoxville in late 2000 and early in 2001, January or February, I stopped by to check out the library and to see friends in the area. There was a note on the door of the library saying "Library moved to old high school". I started snooping around and finally contacted the chair of the library board who answered my inquiry by saying "We thought we might divide it into apartments or something to generate income for the library". I kept my words to myself but in my mind I said "No you're not!" I basically called them on the trust, and the county return it or risk legal action. My son Luke, off in Nashville doing mock trial competitions this weekend for pre-law, made the formal request to return it my father a few years ago. The Claiborne County Commission (all 23 of them! I counted) voted unanimously to give the house back to my father. Dad gave it to me in the months preceding his death. The house was in shameful condition. No infrastructure maintenance (even wiring, plumbing, the grass was about waist high, beer cans were around the property and there were pigeons inside the attic. The kitchen chimney was pulling away from the house (or visa versa) and there were years or more of wet leaves plied up alongside the kitchen porch. Water was also leaking into the dining room. I visited the local historical society a couple of times, but it was obvious they had too much inner conflict to hold a productive and functional meeting. After it came into dad's possession I spent the following weeks, months and year clearing out library trash and making critical, emergency, repairs to stop further damage.
My best friend and his brother Jim and Stephen Bean, along with a friend of Stephen I had not met before nor seen since, spent a weekend making such repairs. Stephen's friend knew how to chink chimneys. We installed flashing and my daughter Kate and I painted what parts of the roof were accessible to us and leaking the most with metal roof paint. I mowed grass for three or four years and though not in his will, my sister and brothers supported me taking possession when the property dad and mom's property was divided. I had tried for years to get someone to take it, even found a house mover in Knoxville who wanted to fix it but no one in Claiborne County would touch it. Then one day, out of the blue Eleanor Yoakum, the person who saved the house from the bulldozer through her industrious work from 1980 to 1982, (God Bless Mary ParKey) she called and asked about buying the house. I agreed, if she would take the property too. She had it taken apart and moved, piece by piece, excluding the floors. It is a guest house for her family and community groups like the garden and ladies clubs have met and toured there. I will attach and send photos. One is of me and my wife Sherri, in front of the restored front door, which except for the two or three panes that broke during restoration, are original leaded glass I would presume about 100 years old, but that is a guess. It could be more like 80 years old. Under the circumstances, we could not have had a better outcome for the James Weir House.