Isa-Beall Williams Neel was an outstanding educator and a gifted speaker and leader. She was president of the Georgia Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union from 1911 to 1932 and then taught language at Bessie Tift College in Forsyth from 1932 to 1941. She was the first woman to receive the honorary LL.D. degree from Mercer University in Macon (1931) and the first woman to be elected vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention (1931).
Her parents, Harriet Elizabeth Beall and Alfred Carter Williams, were prominent Baptists. Her father was a merchant in Cartersville, where she was born on June 2, 1861. She was educated at Mary Sharpe College in Winchester, Tennessee, (A.B., 1882) and attended Berlitz College of Languages, Dresden, Germany (1890). In 1892 she married William Jesse Neel, a lawyer from Adairsville. They were a team in church and civic life until his death in 1908.
As a Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) leader in Rome and Cartersville, Neel attended state WMU executive board meetings and served as recording secretary from April 1911 until her election as president in November 1911. She played a major role in the decision of the Georgia WMU to build the Mary P. Willingham School for Girls at Blue Ridge (1916-31). The prayer room in the Memorial Chapel at Camp Pinnacle, owned by the Georgia WMU, near Clayton, is the I. Neel Prayer Room. She wrote the history of the Georgia WMU, His Story in Georgia WMU History (1939).