Of all the arresting images Brad McCourtney has photographed over the past quarter century, Jim Neville lingers longest in our minds. Flamboyant and outspoken, the two-time county commissioner once punched a constituent and reportedly inspired the hero in John D. MacDonald’s classic novel about Florida development, A Flash of Green.
A staunch conservationist, he founded Save Our Bays and fought for the preservation of what’s now called the Jim Neville Marine Preserve, a 35-acre wildlife sanctuary surrounding Midnight Pass; he also wrote newspaper columns that were "acerbic and hard, but always full of knowledge," McCourtney recalls.
This photo was taken in 1985 on Siesta Beach, which Neville also helped bring into public ownership. Near the end of his life and in failing health, Neville baked in the mid-summer sun while McCourtney positioned his large-format camera.
"I had to keep taking him over to a bench under a palm tree to rest," McCourtney says. But as soon as the light was perfect, McCourtney acted quickly. When you’re trying to capture great legends, he notes, "You’ve really only got one shot."