The McNeills immigrated from Scotland between 1735-1770, from either the Cape Fear region or coastal Virginia. More on this topic is explored in Johnson Jay Hayes' book, The Genealogy of the McNiel Clan. In Scotland their name was spelled "Macneil" and were thought to be of a noble clan. The Hays family have been in the United States since colonial Virginia and moved to North Carolina in the early 1800s. The majority of the Hayes and McNeill families now reside in Wilkes County, North Carolina.
James Madison Hayes, Jr., was born April 5, 1919, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was born to Rev. James Madison, Senior, and Aline Pace Hayes. As graduate from both Wake Forest College undergraduate and law school (1940), James Madison Hayes, Jr. worked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1941. During World War II, he worked as an infantry officer on Guadalcanal and later as chief legal officer at Camp Lejeune. When discharged, he was ranked a major and worked as a lawyer for over 50 years in Winston-Salem, N.C. In 1946, he was elected to the North Carolina State Legislature and is most notable for helping establish the North Carolina Museum of Art. He died June 30, 2001.
Raymond "Kyle" Hayes was born in Purlear, N.C., Oct. 4, 1905, to Charles Clayton and Ida Huffman Hayes. He was married to Margaret Smithey in 1932. He graduated from Wake Forest College (1931) and received his J.D. from Wake Forest University in 1970. Kyle Hayes began practicing law in Wilkesboro soon after, establishing the Hayes and Hayes law firm with his brother Clyde. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942, and was discharged on Nov. 8, 1944, as staff sergeant.
The Hayes and McNeill families were first joined with the marriage of Sarah Julia McNeil and John Lee Hays in the mid-1800s. The spelling was changed to "Hayes" under their eldest son Thomas. Their other children were Johnson Jay, Richard Dixon, Joseph Franklin, Charles Clayton, and Minnie Ruth.
Other Hayes-McNeill Wake Forest alumni include: George Washington McNeill (1899), Thomas Norman Hayes (1907), James Madison Hayes, Sr. (1917), Johnson Jay Hayes, Sr. (1932), Charles Clyde Hayes (1935), Johnson Jay Hayes, Jr. (1937), Hayden Burke Hayes (1940), William Clayton Hayes (1944), Nan Lacy Harris McNeill (1945), Robert Hayes McNeill (1949), and Robert Hayes McNeill, Junior (1968).
For more information about the Hayes-McNeill Family, please visit the Hayes and McNeill Families Papers, online or at Wake Forest University Library. The collection contains materials about and correspondence between the Hayes and McNeill family. Contents include correspondence, photographs, genealogical research material, and obituaries, regarding members of the Hayes and McNeill families. Digitized materials from this collection are available in Z. Smith Reynolds Library Digital Collections.
The Wilkes County Veterans History Project has been greatly helped by the generosity of the Hayes-McNeill Family.