Edith Royal

This weekend marked the opening of an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 national championship football team, the first national championship won by Coach Darrell K Royal.

The exhibit, hosted by the H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, focuses on the 1963 football season and the life and career of the man after whom UT’s football stadium is named. In his time as coach, Royal led the team to three national championships and never had a losing season.

Terry Todd, director of the Stark Center and co-host of the exhibit, said he was inspired to create the exhibit after Royal’s death in November of 2012. Todd said he and Royal have a long history together.

“I started here in 1956, and he came here in the fall of 1956. We kinda grew up together here,” Todd said. “I came back in 1983 … and went to talk to him about … a place where materials related to athletes [and] former athletes could be kept and be saved.”

The exhibit, which features letters, pictures and other mementos from Royal’s life, relied heavily on contributions from Edith Royal, Darrell’s wife. The opening event featured “DKR: The Royal Scrapbook,” compiled by Edith Royal and Jenna Hays McEachren, a close family friend of the Royals. McEachren said the scrapbook focused on more than Royal’s life inside the stadium.

“This is not just a book about Coach Royal’s football success,” McEachern said. “It’s about his life with Edith and his family, and of course his unparalleled football success. I wanted people to know the man this stadium was named after.” 

McEachren said she believes the exhibit effectively captured Royal’s spirit, and said she especially loves the “Wall of Royalisms” containing the coach’s famous one-liners. 

“You never lose a game if the opponent doesn’t score,” the wall reads.

Mack Royal, Coach Darrell Royal’s son, and his wife April Royal, were also both at the opening of the exhibit. Mack Royal contributed to the scrapbook by scanning photos of his family and some of those photos were also included in the exhibit. 

“He was always cheerful. He would get us up in the morning and say, ‘It’s a great day in the morning!’” Mack Royal said. “There’s a picture of my dad sitting at his desk [at UT] entitled 33, No Secretary, Broken Desk, and Loves His Job.’”

Todd said the most gratifying moment of his work on the exhibit was seeing the reactions of the members of the team of 1963 when they came to sign the 1963 national champion banner two weeks prior to the exhibit’s opening.

“That was very gratifying to see them, the ones there, and if they felt that the things we put up represented them well and that they represented the coach they admired so much to their satisfaction, that was all the thanks I needed,” Todd said. 

An auction employee holds up a framed memorabilia from the Royal Collection on Sunday at the Austin Auction Gallery.

Photo Credit: Ricky Llamas | Daily Texan Staff

Members of the public got a chance Sunday to take home memorabilia that belonged to legendary former head football coach Darrell K Royal.

Items auctioned included Alamo Bowl and 2006 Rose Bowl rings, a 1973 photo of Darrell K Royal and his wife Edith Royal with Willie Nelson and Lady Bird Johnson and a photo of Charles Duke, lunar module pilot on the 1972 Apollo 16 mission, attempting to form a Hook ‘em hand gesture on the moon.

Darrell K Royal died Wednesday of complications of cardiovascular disease at the age of 88. Ross Featherston, spokesperson for Austin Auction Gallery, said planning for the auction began in late August, and Edith Royal wanted to continue with the auction after her husband’s death for several reasons.

“This is about sharing their personal collection with the public, with his fans,” Featherston said. “She wanted people to have the opportunity to buy some of those things. There are 243 pieces here that they can [bid on], and they are related to Coach Royal.”

Amy McMurrough, spokesperson for public relations firm McMurrough and Associates, that assisted in publicizing the auction, said Edith Royal also wanted to continue with the auction to take some of the strain off her family.

“She didn’t want to burden her family with the difficulty of having to figure out what to do with things after he passed,” McMurrough said.

She said roughly 600 people placed bids during the auction, with 300 in-person and 300 via internet or telephone.

She said the highest bid was made by a UT alumnus, whose name was not available, for the 2006 Rose Bowl ring at $105,000, roughly $120,000 with buyer’s premium, a tax charged by the auction house. McMurrough said the later bids on that ring produced a lively competition between two bidders.

In addition to the Royal’s items, the auction included pieces from Beau Theriot, an Austin furniture designer.

Featherston said a portion of the proceeds taken in by Featherston and Edith Royal will be given to the Darrell K Royal Fund for Alzheimer’s Research.

He said Darrell K Royal’s passing received national publicity, undoubtedly contributing to the auction’s success.

Articles about Darrell K Royal’s death appeared in the Austin-American Statesman, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Daily Texan and more than a dozen other publications.  

Darrell K Royal served as head coach of the Longhorn football team from 1956 until 1976. His record as head coach is 167-47-5, a school record that remains unbroken.

At Saturday’s game against Iowa State the Longhorns ran the first play from wishbone, a formation introduced to college football by Darrell K Royal in 1968, and gained 47 yards with the play. The Longhorns won the game 33-7.

There will be a public memorial for Darrell K Royal at noon Tuesday in the Frank Erwin Center’s basketball arena. He will be buried privately in the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin, an honor reserved for “legendary Texans who have made the state what it is today.”

Printed on Monday, November 12, 2012 as: Historical DKR memorabilia goes on auction

Darrell K Royal, who won three national championships as head football coach of the Texas Longhorns, is auctioning off memorabilia to raise money for the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. Royal, 88, is battling the disease (March, 2012, file photo).

Day by day, Alzheimer’s disease is robbing Edith Royal of her beloved husband Darrell.

“He’s in his childhood now,” she said in an interview this week at the assisted living facility where they live. “Sometimes, you wonder if anybody is ever going to make a breakthrough fighting this disease.”

She is doing what she can to help, while also caring for the former Texas coach who won two national championships with the Longhorns in 1963 and 1969, a share of a third in 1970, and is still regarded as one of the giants in the game. The Royals are hoping Texas fans — and some from Oklahoma as well — will pitch in, too.

Edith Royal is putting some of the family’s personal memorabilia up for auction on Nov. 11 in Austin. Some of the proceeds will go to the Darrell K. Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease launched earlier this year.

Although Royal gave away many of his awards and mementos over the years and the trophies he won are kept at the school, the couple still has too much to keep — and much to share.

The items at auction trace his life from the scrappy kid growing up in the poverty of the Dust Bowl-era in Hollis, Okla. to his rise to one of the great coaches in college history. Royal coached Texas from 1957-1976, won 11 Southwest Conference titles and introduced an innovation known as the wishbone offense to major college football in 1968.

Notable items include a diamond pendant commemorating the 1963 national championship, and a diamond ring from the Longhorns’ 2006 BCS championship game victory over Southern California. There are footballs, belt buckles, tie pins, watches, cufflinks, vintage Texas logo drinking glasses, game programs from Royal’s first two seasons with the Longhorns (1957-1958) and dozens of autographed books, photographs and sideline passes.

Some items date to Darrell’s playing days at Oklahoma, where he was a standout defensive back and quarterback for the Sooners from 1946-1949. Edith Royal says an Oklahoma regent has inquired about bidding on the game programs from Darrell’s first and last games for the Sooners.

“I’m hoping that Darrell’s fans will be the ones that purchase the UT things and they will treasure them like we have. I love the memories - it was fun to rediscover them,” she said.

Other items provide an intimate peek into the Royal home and their friendships with country music stars to astronauts. Royal is longtime friends with Willie Nelson and the auction includes several backstage passes to Nelson concerts and autographed photos.

The auction will be handled by Austin Auction Gallery the day after Texas plays at home against Iowa State. Edith Royal acknowledged the sale will cause some to ask if she just needs money.

“I know they’ll ask that and I don’t care if they do,” she said. “I’m OK. But this was about downsizing and not having to leave my grandchildren to go through all of this stuff someday.”

She lights up when talking about the items in the collection that aren’t about football, especially those that connect Royal and his love of country music. He and Nelson were regular golf partners and Nelson recently stopped by the living center to see his old friend. He played his guitar in the lobby for more than an hour.

“When he left Darrell that day, I’m told he had tears in his eyes,” she said.

She recently discovered an audio recording of Nelson and Merle Haggard singing and talking at one of Royal’s legendary “pickin’ parties” at the Royal’s house. The occasion was to celebrate the 1972 Apollo 16 moon landing by astronaut Charles Duke, a family friend. The recording includes more than 45 minutes of chatter and songs.

“There’s a lot of discussion. What the earth looked like from space, how’d you eat in space, how’d you go to the bathroom?” Edith Royal said. “Charlie says, ‘There’s three pages in the manual written about that. You can read it. I’m not talking about it.’ It’s funny.”

Duke remembers the party.

“It was a fun time and that was a great evening,” Duke said this week. “After my flight, we used to see (Royal) quite often. I sure enjoyed his company and his love of country music and golf.”

The Royals also had given Duke a Texas flag to take to the moon. They had previously loaned the flag to the LBJ Presidential Library and it will be part of the auction. Duke had tried to do a “Hook’em Horns” hand signal for a photograph on the moon but couldn’t make it work in his space suit.

The 88-year-old Darrell recently fell and cracked a vertebra, and he will likely start using a wheelchair full time.

“He’s in the falling stage now,” said Edith Royal, who is 87. “He can’t stand alone.”

Watching the disease’s progress has taken a physical and emotional toll on her. She is often reminded to take care of herself while taking care of her husband. The assisted living center regularly warns residents that the stress of the care giving can kill the caretaker.

“I’ve seen that happen” among her neighbors, she said. “Until you suffer with it in your own family ... You just live in a state of grief.”

Laughter helps. Royal still manages to pull out the one-liners that made him a favorite with fans and reporters.

“The other day, he said, ‘Edith, I have to go to Hollis. Uncle Otis died.’ I said, “No, Darrell, Uncle Otis didn’t die.’ He said, ‘Well, Uncle Otis will be glad to hear that.’ You have to see the humor it in it sometimes,” Edith Royal said.

Sometimes Royal asks to speak to their daughter Marian and son David. Marian died in 1973 after her car was hit by a university bus. David was killed in in a motorcycle accident in 1982. The Royals have another son, Mack.

Edith Royal tries to keep to a frantic pace that keeps her from slowing down. She recently collaborated on a book, “DKR, The Royal Scrapbook”, and about a month ago had an operation to remove a lump from one of her breasts. Doctors told her the operation was a success and she won’t need chemotherapy or radiation.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” she said with a sigh. “Maybe when this is all over I can lie down and rest for a while.”

That’s when she points to the wall and a framed wooden engraving of a plow and wagon on a farm.

She was just a country girl grinding out a living with her family’s cotton when she met Royal in high school. Both worked hard to build a better life, crisscrossing the country with head coaching stops in Mississippi, Canada and Washington state before they landed in Austin and never left.

“I come from that, pulling that wagon,” she said of her roots. “I hope it made my heart strong.”

Longhorn coach Darrell K Royal discusses sports and university events with Kinsolving women in August of 1971. Royal coached at the University of Texas from 1957-1976. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Marlon Taylor | Daily Texan Staff

Legendary football coach Darrell K Royal left behind a legacy on the football field that will also continue into the field of Alzheimer’s research.

The Darrell K Royal Fund for Alzheimer’s Research was launched Tuesday during the testimony of his wife Edith Royal at a Texas Senate Interim Joint Committee hearing on Alzheimer’s disease.

“Everyday since Darrell’s diagnosis of dementia, I deal with the stress of managing everything without my best friend helping me to make decisions,” she said. “It is an important legacy, as important as football, that we lend the strength of Darrell’s name to this incredible group of prominent Texans who want to join us in this endeavor.”

Darrell Royal has been living with dementia for several years and sat next to his wife during the hearing. He spoke briefly in front of the committee.

“I feel that I am home when I visit Austin, Texas,” said Darrell Royal, who proudly held up his “Hook ‘Em” sign as he left the Senate floor.

Royal is the winningest football coach in UT history. In 20 seasons at Texas from 1957-1976, he coached the Longhorns to 167 wins, including three national championships.

According the their website, the DKR Fund will conduct clinical research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias with the hope of funding collaborative research in Texas that can be promoted nationwide.

Texas ranks third in the nation regarding the number of citizens diagnosed with the disease, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. In 2010, there were 340,000 individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the NAA predicts this will increase to 400,000 individuals by 2020. The fund will focus both on research and care for Texans dealing with Alzheimer’s disease through developing new treatment strategies and methods of prevention.

Actor Matthew McConaughey and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, long-time supporters of the Royal family and members of the board of advisors for the fund, were at the hearing. Other board members include UT football head coach Mack Brown, Attorney General Greg Abbott and singer-songwriter Willie Nelson.

Debbie Hanna, president of the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter, said the fund will be a significant benefit to researchers and caregivers in Texas because of the strength and influence of Royal’s name. Hanna also testified before the committee on Tuesday on behalf of the association.

“The Royals’ bravery is an indication of the kind people they are and the quality of which they have lived their life,” she said. “A diagnosis is difficult for the person with disease, and their family and Mrs. Royal cares about this.”

Robert Barber, scientific manager of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium, said funding for Alzheimer’s research usually goes to research on the East and West coast even though Texas is greatly affected by the disease.

“The fund will be a game-changer because it may increase communication and collaboration between Texas’ scientists,” he said. “It will also focus on caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, which is an area of research that badly needs improvements.”

Barber said there is a lot of progress to be made in Alzheimer’s research in Texas, and the fund will be beneficial in bridging the gaps between Texas and the rest of the nation.

Printed on Friday, March 2, 2012 as: DKR Fund aims to conduct research on Alzheimer's