Neely Edwin Cassady of Nashville, Ark., passed away on Jan. 18, 2020, at the age of 91.
He was born on Oct. 8, 1928, on a farm in the County Line community west of Nashville, the youngest of seven children of Robert Lankston and Nelia Gertrude Walker Cassady. His mother died when he was a few days old, and he lived with his grandparents, William Henry and Mary Eleby Cassady, until he was five years old. His father then married Thula Barton, and he moved back home to be raised by his father and new stepmother. He loved to tell about he and his brother Harold sleeping in the chicken house during the winter so they could keep wood in the stove. As he grew older, he began working in his father’s chicken hatchery, feed store, and frozen food locker plant.
At age 18, Neely suddenly became the head of the family business when his father died. Several years later that business, Cassady’s Hatchery, was merged with two other businesses to form Mountaire Poultry Company, which is now part of Pilgrim’s. After selling his share of Mountaire, he formed Cassady Broiler Company. In 1971, he and Don Tyson formed a joint venture between Tyson Foods and Cassady Broiler Company to build a processing plant in Nashville, forming Tyson of Nashville. In 1974, Cassady Broiler Company, Tyson of Nashville, and Tyson Foods merged, and Neely served on the Tyson board of directors for 27 years. With the establishing and growing of those businesses, he was responsible for the creation of over 2,000 jobs in the Nashville area. He was also involved in several other business ventures.
Neely was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1982. He ran unopposed for re-election three times, serving a total of 14 years.
Neely was a member of Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, where he served as a deacon, Sunday School Superintendent, and teacher.
Neely was president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation from 1973-1974. He served on the Nashville school board and the Central Baptist College board of trustees. He was recognized as an Arkansas Poultry Pioneer by the University of Arkansas, and a plaque with this honor hangs in the Poultry Sciences Building at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In 2017, he was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame. He was a past president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Rotary Club and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club. He was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and the Parker Westbrook Award by the Howard County Democratic Party. He was a member of Gideons International.
He was preceded in death by his father, mother, and stepmother; three brothers, Floyd Cassady, Henry Cassady, and Harold Cassady; three sisters, Velma Cassady, Dicie May Cassady Woodson, and Virginia Cassady Henker.
He is survived by his wife, Nina Jo Ponder Cassady; three children: Pam Cassady Reeder (Kem) of Yellville, AR, Mark Cassady of Nashville, and Tony Cassady (Marie) of Peterborough, NH and Little Rock; four grandchildren: Mandy Ferguson (Clay) of Nashville, Jody McLaughlin (Robin Lovejoy) of Little Rock; Tara Cassady (Conrad Burnham) of Los Angeles, CA, and Colin Cassady of Keene, NH; five great-grandchildren: Brittany Backus, Zach Backus, and Lauren Ferguson all of Nashville, Colton McLaughlin and Jocie McLaughlin of Little Rock; and a number of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A memorial service will be held at Immanuel Baptist Church on Monday, January 20, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. with Glen Green and Brent Thompson officiating. A reception at the church will follow the service. A private burial will be held at County Line Cemetery.
Memorials may be made to Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville (www.myimmanuel.com), P.O. Box 212, Nashville, AR 71852; or the Arkansas Alzheimer’s Association (AR-Arkansas).