On a cold winter day, January 6, 1940, a baby boy was born to Hoya Doice and Ruth Grant at the Warren Hospital in Center, Texas. O'Neil Grant made his way into this world weighing 10 lbs ¼ oz. Neil was the younger of two boys in the Grant family who lived in the small Shelby County community of Arcadia. Neil started his school years at age five in a one-room schoolhouse named Cooper School, which he actually did have to walk to. During those years, Neil had to study by lamplight or by the light of the fireplace because electricity had not found its way to Arcadia. Neil liked school and always excelled in many areas, especially music.
When Neil was ten years old, his parents bought him a trumpet and that was the beginning of the Neil Grant we know today. Neil's family moved around a great deal as his daddy looked for work, but Neil always played his trumpet wherever he went. During his 6th grade year, at the age of 11, the Grant family moved to Pasadena, Texas. Neil's mother saw to it that young Neil pursued his musical interest. He was fortunate to take private lessons from Gene Stutzberry, the first trumpet player in the Houston Symphony and band director of the Pasadena High School Band.
When Neil was ten years old, tragedy struck the family when both the Grant boys contracted polio. Neil lay in the Nan Travis Hospital in Jacksonville, Texas, for many months with his feet strapped to a board. To pass the idle hours, Neil played his trumpet. Later his family moved to Rockdale, Texas, where his dad worked for the Alcoa Company and Neil was in the band. It was here that Neil first made music history when as a twelve year old he made the coveted All-State Band for the first time. During Neil's sophomore year his family moved back to Arcadia and Neil attended Timpson High School. Another tragedy struck during Neil's sophomore year when his daddy passed away. Neil's brother was grown and had moved away, leaving just Neil and his mother. Neil took over running the farm and looking after his mother. That didn't slow Neil down as he continued to play his horn and make good grades in school. It was here that a gentleman by the name of Alto Tatum would come and clinic the Timpson Band. He noticed the musical talents and leadership qualities Neil possessed and he became a mentor to Neil. Later they became business partners in Tatum Music Co., a relationship that lasted for 30 years.
During Neil's sophomore year at Timpson, another event happened that would change his life. A new girl named Jackie Emanis moved to Timpson, and she caught his eye. Jackie always said that in those days, when Bobby Goff was their director, folks would refer to the group as Neil Grant accompanied by the Timpson High School Band. Like most trumpet players, Neil liked to play loud!
Neil entered Stephen F. Austin University after graduating with honors at Timpson. He and Jackie, both students at the time, married and she became Jackie Grant. Neil graduated with honors from SFA in only 2 ½ years. He then started his band-directing career at age 19 in Tatum, Texas, and after one year, moved to Troup, Texas. Here, Neil Grant and the class 1A Troup High School Band made a name for themselves and the town. He led the band to consistent Sweepstakes awards. They also performed in the Cotton Bowl and at college football games. In 1963 the band attended the prestigious Tri- State Musical Festival in Enid, Oklahoma. They were selected as the Outstanding Band in Class for concert and marching. In addition, the band won the Outstanding Band award in the Million Dollar Parade, competing with more than 100 bands of all classes. Two years later in 1965 on a return trip to Tri -State, the band duplicated all of the outstanding band awards won in 1963, including the Outstanding Band of all Classes in the Million Dollar Parade with 104 bands competing. Another highlight for the 1965 band was being selected by TMEA as the 1st runner-up in Honor Band competition.
In 1965, Neil moved to class 4A Nacogdoches High School, where the band made a 1st division at marching contest and performed at the New Year's Cotton Bowl game. Neil accepted the White Oak High School band director position in January 1966, where he earned the Sweepstakes award. He also took the band to the Tri State Festival in Oklahoma, where they were the Outstanding Band in Class. In the Million Dollar Parade, with 107 bands of all classes, they were selected as 1st runner-up. In 1967 the band attended the Fiesta of Five Flags in Pensacola, Florida and was selected as the Outstanding Overall Band, in concert, field drill, and parade competition. In addition to the Sweepstakes award, they were also the TMEA Honor Band.
In 1967 Neil accepted the position as director of the Longview High School Band. During his two years, the program saw tremendous growth and achieved consistent Sweepstakes awards. In addition, the band won the L.D. Bell Invitational Marching Contest, was the outstanding band at Fiesta of Five Flags in Florida, and was the region TMEA Honor Band.
In the summer of 1969, Neil left the teaching profession to start a forty-year partnership with Tatum Music Company in Longview, Texas. In addition to operating a successful business, he continued to serve as a clinician to the bands of East Texas, conducting more than 4000 clinics in his 40 years.
In 1982 Neil was selected to the SFA Band Director's Hall of Fame; in 1995, was the recipient of the Outstanding Music Alumnus award at SFA University; and in 1998 was named as Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Contributor. Neil retired from Tatum Music Co. in January 2010, and now lives in the Arcadia Community of Shelby Co. where he actively operates his cattle ranch.
Neil and Jackie have four grown children: Doice Grant and wife Beth of Longview, Dr. Derek Grant and wife Ann of Center, Texas, Greg Grant of the Arcadia Community, and Kerry Grant Greer and husband Reed Greer of Melissa, Texas. Their pride and joy are their eight grandchildren, seven boys and one granddaughter: Reed and Seth Grant, Rachel and Levi Grant, and Trace, August, Jack and Judson Greer.