Richard Edmund Neal is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 1st congressional district since 1989. The district, numbered as the 2nd district from 1989 to 2013, includes Springfield, West Springfield, Pittsfield, Holyoke, Agawam, Chicopee and Westfield, and is much more rural than the rest of the state. A member of the Democratic Party, Neal has been the dean of Massachusetts's delegation to the United States House of Representatives since 2013, and he is also the dean of the New England House delegations.
Neal was president of the Springfield City Council from 1979 to 1983, serving as mayor of Springfield from 1983 to 1989. He was nearly unopposed when he ran for the House of Representatives in 1988, and took office in 1989.
As the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee since 2019 and former chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, Neal is an influential figure in American economic policy. He has also dedicated much of his career to U.S.–Ireland relations and maintaining American involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process, for which he has won several acclamations. He has a generally liberal voting record, but is considered a moderate on such issues as abortion and trade. In January 2020, Neal was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame.
Early life, education, and academic career
Richard Edmund Neal was born in 1949, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the oldest of three children of Mary H. (Garvey) and Edmund John Neal. He and his two younger sisters were raised in Springfield by their mother, a housewife, and their father, a custodian at MassMutual. Neal's maternal grandparents were from Northern Ireland and his paternal grandparents were from Ireland and Cornwall, England. Neal's mother died of a heart attack when he was 13, and he was attending Springfield Technical High School when his father, an alcoholic, died. Neal and his two younger sisters moved in with their grandmother and later their aunt, forced to rely on Social Security checks as they grew up.
After graduating from high school, Neal attended Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and then American International College in Springfield, with the assistance of survivor's benefits. He graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He then attended the University of Hartford's Barney School of Business and Public Administration, graduating in 1976 with a Master of Arts in public administration. Early in his career Neal taught history at Cathedral High School.