Oxford Municipal Judge Phillip Halbert “Hal” Neilson passed away

Published 1:02 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Oxford Municipal Judge Philip Halbert “Hal” Neilson died Sunday at the age of 63 while at his hunting camp in Alligator, Miss.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the Chapel of Waller Funeral Home, with the Rev. Jody Schmelzer officiating. Visitation will be held before the service at 12:30 p.m. in the West Hall at Waller. A private graveside service will be held at Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Before being sworn in as the municipal judge for the city of Oxford in March 2018, Neilson enjoyed a long career in criminal and general law.

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The Board of Aldermen has appointed Judge Andy Howorth to serve as the interim municipal judge until a full-time judge is appointed.

According to his obituary on the Waller Funeral Home website, Neilson attended Delta State and the University of Mississippi before earning his law degree from the University of Mississippi Law School.

After graduation, he moved to Washington D.C., where he became a legal advisor and civil litigation attorney for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for more than 23 years. He later moved to Jackson and then to Oxford, where he served as the special agent in charge for north Mississippi.

After retiring from the FBI in 2012, he started his law practice, Neilson Law Office, in Oxford. In June 2023, he was elected president of the Mississippi Municipal Court Judges Association.

He was a Member of the Mississippi Bar Association, the Lafayette County Mississippi Bar, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Inc., and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

An avid outdoorsman, he enjoyed hunting and was an Ole Miss Rebels football and baseball fan.

He is survived by his wife, Michelle Gebhart Neilson of Oxford; his daughters, Heather Neilson Nutt, Rosemary Elizabeth Neilson and Marjorie Ann Neilson; a son, Philip Halbert Neilson, Jr., two brothers, two sisters, a grandson and others.

Click here to read the full obituary:


On Wednesday, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the Oxford community had lost a dedicated community servant and fair and compassionate judge.

“Personally, I have lost a dear friend and neighbor,” Tannehill said. “Hal made everyone who crossed his path feel valued and heard. He always had something positive to share. Hal will be deeply missed by his family, as well as, by his family, as well as, by his friends and coworkers.”

The Oxford Police Department posted a memorial message on Neilson’s death.

“Beyond his esteemed career in law enforcement and the judiciary, Judge Neilson was a devoted family man, always sharing heartfelt stories about his wife and children. His commitment to family values and his warmth extended beyond the courtroom, leaving a lasting impact on those who had the privilege of working with him.

“As we mourn the loss of Judge Neilson, we remember his legacy of family, integrity, compassion, and dedication to justice. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to his family during this difficult time. We will miss you, Judge.”