FORT WORTH — Richard “Dick” O’Neal was one of the most acclaimed athletes in TCU history and in 2010 became the first basketball player to have his jersey honored.He also treated countless patients as a Fort Worth dentist and orthodontist.“He was always being stopped and being asked ‘Remember me?’ and he would say, ‘I remember those teeth,’�� his wife, Gayle O’Neal, said Thursday.“He’s got smiles all over this city.” Dr. O’Neal died in his sleep Tuesday at his home in Parker County. The cause of death is not certain, but he may have had an aneurysm, Gayle O’Neal said. He was 78He was Fort Worth school board president from 1978 until he resigned on Jan. 13, 1987. He led the district through a difficult transition when they agreed to hire Carl Candoli as the first superintendent from outside the district.“There had been a good ol’ boy network, and that got broken up by going outside and bringing in Carl Candoli,” said former school board president Mollie Lasater, who was vice president when Dr. O’Neal was president.“He was just someone you greatly admired,” Lasater said. “You always felt he was true to his word. He was never duplicitous or political.”T.A. Sims, still a trustee and a former board president, was first elected to the board when Dr. O’Neal was president. He said Dr. O’Neal’s focus was always on improving children’s education and that he helped restore trust after some years of scandal.“I think we had some things that reflected mismanagement, and he was instrumental in really gaining the confidence of the community again,” Sims said.On the basketball courtDr. O’Neal was born Sept. 7, 1935, in Dallas.He first made his mark as an athlete at Polytechnic High School. The team won the state championship in 1952, and in 1953 made it to the semifinals. He also played baseball when Poly won the state title in 1953.Tom Rogers competed against Dr. O’Neal when Rogers was at McLean Junior High and later at Paschal High School. They both played baseball together at TCU and became lifelong friends.“Even when he was competitive with people — and Poly and Paschal were huge rivals — we were still good friends,” said Rogers, who added that Dr. O’Neal downplayed his athletic achievements.“He was a really nice guy. You would have never known all that was happening with him.”A forward on the TCU basketball team, he became TCU’s only three-time All-American (1955-57). He averaged 28.2 points per game his first season with TCU and finished with a career 23.9 scoring average, a school record. He ranks fourth all-time in scoring at TCU with 1,723 points and fourth with 790 rebounds, averaging 11 per game in his career. He graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 1962 and then spent two years in the Army before returning to Fort Worth to start his dentistry practice. After four years, he sold his practice and returned to dental school to become an orthodontist.While he was a regular at TCU’s basketball games and other university-related events, Dr. O’Neal downplayed his athletic accomplishments. But he was thrilled when TCU honored him in 2010.“He was humbled and excited for his kids and grandkids to be there,” Gayle O’Neal said.Other survivors include three sons, Scott O’Neal of Aledo, Matt O’Neal of Fort Worth and Patrick O’Neal of North Richland Hills; one daughter, Lisa Hughes of Fort Worth; and 13 grandchildren.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna