By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
From the Baylor scholarships he’s endowed, to the fund he helped establish that honors former baseball coach Dutch Schroeder, to the civic organizations he’s led and the young bankers he’s mentored, Jim Daniel sees all of it as his way to give back.
“I just feel like I have an obligation to go back and help other people like I was helped,” said Daniel, a former baseball letterman and 1962 Baylor graduate (BBA, finance) who was elected to the Baylor Athletics Wall of Honor. “I will be eternally grateful for all the experiences that (Baylor) gave me and the people who mentored me through my career. I can attribute that to the Lord taking mercy on a poor left-hander from Oklahoma and trying to make something out of me anyway.”
Along with this year’s Hall of Fame induction class, Daniel will be honored at the Oct. 20 Hall of Fame banquet and the Homecoming parade and football game the next day, when the Bears play West Virginia in a 7 p.m. kickoff at McLane Stadium.
“It floored me, quite frankly,” said Daniel, who’s been in the banking industry for 59 years in Oklahoma City, including the last 20 as vice chairman at BancFirst. “I know what it’s about, its purpose, and I just thought, ‘Why in the world did they pick me? They must have run out of candidates.’ It’s a way they honor people who continue to represent Baylor, and I hope I do that well.”
The son of a Baptist minister, Daniel pitched in the championship game to help Northwest Classen High School win its first state title in any sport in 1957. Daniel was headed to Oklahoma State to play basketball, but when he suffered a back injury the summer after his junior year, legendary basketball coach Henry Iba said, “Son, I don’t think I’m going to take a chance on your back.”
“So, others intervened, and in August I decided to start at Baylor in September, so that was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “My father got a hold of one of his preacher buddies, and I think that might have had something to do with it.”
After originally going to Baylor on a basketball, baseball and academic scholarship, Daniel left the freshman basketball team after one semester.
“I was the sixth man on the team, and Mel Wright was the freshman coach,” he said. “Mel was a whale of a professional baseball player, but came to Baylor coach the freshmen. He was the guy who hit the winning bucket against Kansas that beat Wilt Chamberlain (in 1957). Mel was a great guy. But, we were going to stay over the Christmas holidays and practice three times a day. And I thought, ‘One sport’s enough.’ My passion and my future, really, was more so in baseball.”
As a freshman in 1959, Daniel was called up to pitch an intrasquad game and combined with Billy Hall to no-hit the varsity. In two seasons with coach Lloyd Russell and the last with Schroeder, he was on teams that finished in the top three in the league, ending the 1961 season ranked 25th nationally.
“Nobody had any doubts about what Dutch thought,” Daniel said of Schroeder, who was the Bears’ head baseball coach for 12 years (1962-73) and volunteer head of the “B” Association letterwinners’ organization for the next three decades. “I still talk to Dutch almost every day. He is an amazing individual at 93 years of age, with a memory bank that deceives most of us. We all knew what Dutch expected, and he expected us to live right, to play right. And if we ever had a problem with our team, the rest of the teammates took care of it.”
After working part-time at Central Bank of Oklahoma City through the summers and Christmas vacations while he was going to school, Daniel planned on going back to the bank for a couple years until he could decide what he wanted to do next. But, he never left.
Moving to Friendly Bank two years later, Daniel became the youngest bank president and CEO in the history of Oklahoma banking in 1972, at the age of 32.
“I didn’t know everything, but I certainly had four or five or six people that mentored me,” he said, “and I’m personally very passionate about that. I learned that from Dutch Schroeder and some of my professors there, and the Lord blessed me really well in my career, 59 years in banking. The roots of quality of life and making a difference in your role, whatever you are – I learned that from Baylor, and I’ll be eternally grateful for it.”
Having already endowed two scholarships at Baylor, Daniel joined with “B” Association board president Dusty Sanderson in making a significant gift to establish the Dutch Schroeder Letterwinners Legacy Endowment fund to help financially strengthen the “B” Association in its efforts to serve former Baylor student-athletes.
“A critical part of my life was being able to play baseball under the inspiration of a godly coach, Dutch Schroeder,” Daniel said. “He taught us more than baseball. He taught us the importance of living an influential, godly life. All Baylor athletes have a wonderful opportunity to honor Dutch Schroeder for all he means to us and to our beloved university. The “B” Association is what it is and what it can become because of the inspirational man.”
Involved with the FCA from its inception, Daniel has remained a strong civic leader in Oklahoma City as past president of Integris Health of Oklahoma, a past officer and executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention, past director of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club President.
He’s also hosted the Baylor baseball team every year during the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City. The inspiration came during his playing days at Baylor, when the team was fed a steak dinner after a game against TCU in Fort Worth.
“That was the first time I ate steak and found out it wasn’t something with flour sprinkled on it and fired in a skillet,” he said. “That made such an impression on me, I started doing that when Steve (Smith) was the coach and I’ve probably done that for 12 or 13 years, I guess.”
Baylor’s 2017 Hall of Fame class includes 2004 NCAA tennis champion Benjamin Becker, Steffanie Blackmon off the 2005 women’s basketball national championship team, track standouts Jeff Jackson, Bill Payne and Jennifer Jordan Washington, football players Ron Francis and Bill Hicks and women’s golfer Melanie Hagewood Willhite.
Tickets to the Hall of Fame banquet, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 20, in the Brazos Room at the Waco Convention Center, are $50 per person and may be purchased by contacting the “B” Association at 254-710-3045 or by email at email@example.com. Table sponsorships (seating for eight) are also available for $750 (individual) or $1,000 (corporate).