Darrell K Royal, 88, the winningest football coach in University of Texas history, died Wednesday from complications of cardiovascular disease.
Born on July 6, 1924 in Hollis, Oklahoma, Royal's childhood was one of poverty and hard work. After high school, he served in the Army Air Corps from 1943-46 during World War II, and played halfback with the Third Air Force Football team. He excelled also in basketball and baseball and received college scholarship offers in all three sports. He then played college football at the University of Oklahoma. Royal was an all-American quarterback and punter, and still holds OU records for the longest punt return and all-time career interceptions.
While he was at Hollis High, Royal met Edith Marie Thomason, "the only girl I ever cared about." The two were married on July 26, 1944, while he was on a weekend furlough.
In the early 1950s, he moved quickly up the coaching ladder, holding eight jobs in eight years. His first head coaching job was at Edmonton, Canada. Next he held head coaching positions at Mississippi State and the University of Washington.
When the 32-year-old Royal was hired at The University in December of 1956, he inherited a program that had gone 1-9 the previous season. He coached at Texas from 1957 through 1976. His record of 167-45-5 was the best mark in the nation over that term. His teams won eleven Southwest Conference championships, 3 national championships, and more games than any other team in Southwest Conference history.
In his 23 years as a head football coach, he never had a losing season.
His honors include membership in the Longhorn Hall of Honor, the National College Football Hall of Fame, and the coveted Horatio Alger Award. He was the first recipient of the Bear Bryant Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2006, Royal became only the 5th person in its history to receive the UT Distinguished Service Award. In 1996, The University of Texas Board of Regents voted to rename the football stadium Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.
Following his diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease, he and Edith assisted with the establishment of the Darrell K Royal Fund for Alzheimer's Research.
Royal is survived by his beloved partner of 68 years, Edith Thomason Royal, his son, Sammy Mack Royal and daughter-in-law April, son-in-law Chic Kazen; grandsons Christian Kazen, David Kazen, and Sammy Royal; granddaughter Elena Royal Trombetta, great-granddaughters Isabella and Alexandra Kazen, and extended family Sadie Trombetta, Kendall Kazen, and the entire Kazen family. He is also survived by hundreds of "sons" who wore the burnt orange and white and will carry his legacy for generations. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Marian K Royal Kazen, and by his son David Wade Royal.
A memorial service will be held at the Frank C. Erwin Special Events Center, 1701 Red River Street, Austin, TX 78701, Tuesday, November 13, 2012, at 12:00 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Darrell K Royal Fund for Alzheimer's Research online at www.dkrfund.org or mailed care of Dallas Foundation 3963 Maple Avenue, #390, Dallas, TX 75219, or to the DKR 40 Acres Scholarship Fund at the Texas Exes, 2210 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX 78712.