Thanks to William O’Neil, an important part of Greenville’s history is being preserved and noticed. O’Neil, a retired National Park Service employee whose last assignment was at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, has served on the Board for the Friends of Richland Cemetery for many years, including terms as the Chairman of the Board and chair of the Improvement Committee.
Richland Cemetery and was the first municipal African-American cemetery in the City of Greenville. It is the final resting place for some of the most influential black citizens of Greenville. It is also the final resting place of several of O’ Neil’s family members. Personal ties to the cemetery, along with O’Neil’s passion for preservation, have led to O’Neil’s commitment to Richland. O’Neil has been a prominent leader behind the development of a conservation plan for Richland Cemetery, completed by the Chicora Foundation in 2011; the preservation of the simple but historic gateway on Hill St.; the funding for the first phase of grave marker conservation and the reconstruction of the Hilly St. edge to protect historic graves from storm water impact.
O’Neil was a leader in convincing the Greenville City Council to direct a small percentage of revenue generated from a cell phone tower located on city property adjacent to the cemetery to the Friends of Richland Cemetery so the Friends could contract for stone conservation work. O’Neil worked tirelessly to preserve an important cultural landscape and, has been the “squeaky wheel” who gets things done by working closely and building collaborative relationships with other board members and city staff to plan and fund much needed conservation work.
Nominator City of Greenville Parks and Recreation director and nominator, Dana Souza says, “He is a champion for historic preservation; a champion for preserving Greenville’s nationally registered historic African-American Cemetery and is one of Greenville’s true unsung hero and, Heroes Next Door.”