By Jo Blaylock -- A Note from Jo: As the General Manager of a Senior Monthly Newspaper back in 1998 I had the opportunity to interview some people that were of great interest to many. Being a Texas Ex, Darrell Royal brought back many memories when I re-read this and thought maybe you might like to read it too.
As I entered the gated community, I noticed the lavender hue hovering over the hillsides surrounding the lush green golf course. Immaculate houses with the beautiful view seemed to be watching in silence. I knocked on the door and was welcomed by casually clothed Coach Royal and his wife, Edith. I felt a bit of excitement as I entered their home. It was the first time I had seen the Coach in many years. I was one of the lucky ones who was a freshman in the first year of Royal’s reign at the University of Texas. The year was 1957! It was the beginning of a magical time.
We sat at the kitchen table as we began our interview. Edith had shown me the birds in the backyard and I noticed the beautiful flowers blooming everywhere. It was obviously a much loved home.
Darrell was in the Army when he met Edith, a farm girl who grew up way out in the country 13 miles north of the little Oklahoma town of 150 people. The only thing that stopped you was a river and that was where she lived. Without a car, Darrell said it was not easy dating but Edith would come to town on Saturdays. The two were married right after Edith graduated from high school on July 26, 1944. After the war and the birth of their firstborn daughter Marian in 1945, Darrell attended and graduated in 1950 from the University of Oklahoma. He was a mid-term graduate and took a job in a high school in El Reno, Oklahoma. He was there for two months with the agreement that if he got a job in a college he would be allowed to pursue that. Sure enough, North Carolina State wanted him for the coaching staff. When I asked if that was not a little unusual to graduate and get a job of that caliber so quickly, Royal said, “I was older than most grads. I had been in the service in World War II and spent two years in first grade.” The next step was in 1953 when he became the head coach with the Canadian Professional League’s Edmonton Eskimos. By that time they had Mac, born in 1947 and David born in 1952.
Royal was once called the peripatetic Darrell royal, for he was always moving around. He coached at Mississippi State, University of Tulsa, University of Washington and earned the reputation of being unstable. He said he was just searching and when the University of Texas called, he never entertained another job. He was there to stay and (at the time of this interview) had been there for 41 years. While at the University he and his staff and team earned three national championships and many wins.
Just as his professional life has been exciting, his personal life has been full of trials and sadness. He and Edith lost Marian, their first-born, at the age of 29 to a car accident. Their youngest son, David, died in a motorcycle accident at the age o 25. Mac, a photographer, now lives in Australia. They do see their five grandchildren and stay busy with their friends, travel and work.
As many of you know, the University of Texas football stadium is named for Coach Royal. I asked how he felt about that. “It wasn’t a surprise, it was a shock. The Chancellor and President of the University called me and said they wanted to see me. I told Edith that I thought they no longer needed my position and they were coming to tell me in person. When they came, they said they decided to name the stadium after me. I didn’t know what to say, so I just sat there in silence. They asked, ‘Do you approve?’ I said, ‘Is that what you’re waiting on? I had no idea you needed my approval.’ It is the greatest honor a coach can have.”
Since leaving the University of Texas as head coach (at this time in 1998) Royal has been Special Assistant to the President on Athletic Affairs. He is on call to the President, Athletic Director and Chancellor and does whatever they want of him. That way he stays involved with the university.
For the last 27 years he has held a charity golf tournament with Ben Crenshaw and Willie Nelson, 20 years in Galveston and 7 in Austin. It benefits the youth programs of those cities. Nelson and Royal have been friends for years. Coach says he is one of Willie’s biggest fans. I guess Royal summed up his and Edith’s years together best when he quoted one of his songwritin’ buddies, hall of famer Floyd Tillman’s song, ‘I’ve dwelled with bums, I’m in your church, I’m in your slums.’ “That’s just about the way we’ve visited, we have friends from all walks of life.”
Update 2012: Now Coach is 87 and Edith is 86 and they still support their community charities and many Longhorn Events.