Richard Preston Ritchie of Mineral Wells, Texas, age 68, passed on Thursday, May 11, 2023. A loving husband, son and father of two daughters, Richard’s life impacted many and was cut all-too short by terminal brain metastases from leiomyosarcoma.
Born in Fort Worth, Richard is the son of the late Emma Ann (Whatley) Ritchie and John Preston Ritchie. When Richard turned two years old, the Ritchies moved he and his older sister, Anne Lynn, home to Mineral Wells. There, Richard’s father became a renowned lawyer, banker, civic leader and philanthropist—roles that Richard would proudly assume later in life.
Anyone who has ever met Richard will forever be impressed by his fighting spirit. Born with the blood of a champion, Richard dedicated himself to his interests and invariably out-worked the competition in every area of his life. As Richard would often say with his characteristic competitive grin, there was no “ball sport” he could not master. Richard was an active student and all-star athlete at Mineral Wells High School, where he started for the Rams’ basketball, baseball and football teams until his graduation as an honors student in 1973. His contributions to the Mineral Wells athletics program ultimately earned him an induction to the inaugural class of the Mineral Wells High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
Richard’s talent as a quarterback earned him national recognition and placed his beloved alma-mater, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (formerly Texas A&I) squarely in the running as one of the most successful programs in college football history. During his career in Kingsville, Richard had an undefeated record of 39–0. After winning in his only start during his freshman year in 1973, Richard led Texas A&I to win three consecutive Lone Star Conference (LSC) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I national championships. Richard served as a captain of the championship team in 1976, passing for 40 touchdowns and rushing for 19 more throughout the course of his career.
Despite the disapproval of Richard’s coach, the late college football hall-of-famer Gil Steinke, Richard was also the Javelinas placekicker—a conditional appointment he would only enjoy until he missed a kick. But Richard never missed, and ultimately he kicked 137 extra points and nine field goals as a record-setting kicker.
At the time he concluded is career with the Javelinas, Richard had eight school records and held LSC career records for best passing percentage and most total yards. These statistics also earned Richard selections as most valuable player in the NAIA championship game in 1974, most valuable player in the NAIA semifinal games in 1974, 1975 and 1976, LSC player of the year in 1975-76, NAIA player of the year in 1975- 76, Associated Press Little All-America in 1976, and a seven-time LSC player of the week. Richard was ultimately inducted into the Texas A&I Javelina Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Lone Star Conference Hall of Fame in 1999.
Aside from the many accolades gathered during his time as a Javelina, the most unique part of Richard’s football career was Texas A&I’s unprecedented travel schedule. The 1974 team played a regular-season game in Monterrey, Mexico, and beat Monterrey Tech, 33-6. The 1975 team played played the opening dedication game in the Aloha Stadium, and beat the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, 43-0. And the summer preceding Richard’s Senior season, the 1976 team was invited to help spread the love of American football in Europe. The team played exhibition games throughout France, Austria, and Germany.
Also an engaged and excellent student, Richard was an Academic All-American in 1975 and 1976, an LSC Academic All-American for three consecutive years, and a member of Alpha Chi scholastic fraternity. He was also a proud member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and enjoyed many friendships from that chapter throughout his entire life.
Upon graduation with honors from Texas A&I, Richard was enlisted by Darrel K. Royal to bring his successful veer offense to the University of Texas at Austin. He began his career as an assistant quarterback coach during the Longhorns’ 1977 season. After clinching the Southwest Conference championship under Earl Campbell’s leadership, the top-ranked Longhorns fell to Notre Dame, led by quarterback Joe Montana, in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Because this would have been Richard’s 50th consecutive win, he spent the rest of his life cheering against the Fighting Irish.
While an assistant coach, Richard had the unique honor of judging the UT Cheerleader try-outs. In this capacity, he met Pamela Lynn Burkhalter, whom he married on June 21, 1980. After a season of coaching at the University of North Texas, Richard became an assistant coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas. It was there that he and Pam gave birth to their first daughter, Leslie Kay, in 1982. Richard later returned his growing family to Mineral Wells, where his second daughter, Lacie Lane, was born in 1986.
In 1988, Richard decided to follow his family’s legacy to become a fifth-generation Texas lawyer and enrolled at Saint Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. Following law school, Richard became a briefing attorney for Chief Justice Todd Weaver at the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth from 1991-92. Until 1995, he tried cases as an associate with Wallace Craig & Associates in Fort Worth. Thereafter, Richard returned home to Mineral Wells to practice law with his father at the Ritchie Law Firm until John’s death in 2018.
Perhaps one of Richard’s greatest lifetime accomplishments was being selected into the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. That year, his entire family joined him for the induction ceremony in South Bend, Indiana, where they watched him play an exhibition scrimmage—ironically on the campus of his lifelong foe, Notre Dame.
Once his daughters started attending university, Richard never missed a home football game at either of their alma-maters, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tech University. Richard was in Lubbock to attend a Red Raider football game with his daughter, Lacie, when he met the love of his life, Penny (Pierce) Ritchie, in 2007. The couple later married in Mineral Wells on November 21, 2011.
Richard’s passion for community and country was as strong as his love of sport. Even as a young man, Richard was a thoughtful community activist, raising prize-winning steer for the 4-H club and earning his Eagle from the Boys Scouts of America. He later devoted significant time to service as President of the Mineral Wells Noon Lions Club and Brazos Foundation, Captain of the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Posse, and elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Mineral Wells. In private practice, Richard served as the attorney for the Palo Pinto Country Water District and a member of the First State Bank of Mineral Wells Board of Directors. Richard’s passionate work as a rancher was another beloved legacy long enjoyed by previous generations of Ritchie men.
Richard and his wife, Penny, also committed a generous amount of time and resources to his beloved Javelinas. Richard served a 12-year term as a member on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Foundation Board of Trustees and is a member of the TAMUK Legacy Society. Richard and Penny also created the Richard P. Ritchie Endowment Fund in support of Javelina Athletics and has been involved in the Javelina Throwback campaign as a supporter for throwback football jerseys. His contributions earned him the TAMUK Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019.
Richard will be fondly remembered for his uncanny ability to fill those around him with joy. Richard enjoyed hunting in West Texas with his father and a group of devoted friends who supported him throughout his life. He spent significant time making lasting memories with his adoring family at the Ritchie Ranch. And a vehement water and snow-skier, Richard enjoyed and traveling on snow-skiing and sight-seeing trips with his wife and daughters. He also loved hunting, fishing and attending football, basketball and baseball games all over the country.
Richard is survived by his wife, Penny (Pierce) Ritchie and daughters, Leslie Kay (Ritchie) Robnett and Lacie Lane (Ritchie) Austin. He is also dearly respected by his children’s spouses, Kevin M. Robnett and Matthew Austin. The grandchildren who are certain to enjoy colorful stories of Richard’s spirit include Elisha Ritchie Robnett (9), Cyrus Leo Robnett (5), Sky Lynn Austin (5), Arleigh Kay Robnett (4), and Sydney Lane Austin (3). Richard will also be forever be loved and remembered by his sister Anne Lynn (Ritchie) Street and brother-in-law, Tony M. Street; step-children, Matt Pierce and wife Brendi, Ryan Pierce and wife, Danielle; step-grandchildren, Nolan (12), Rex (10), Rhett (2) and Hudson (1 mo); brother-in-law Max Thomason and wife Delayne, sister-in-law Sharon Cannon and husband, Rodney; and his two nieces and their spouses, Reagan Michelle (Street) and Aaron Sisk, Shelby Dawn (Street) and Koby Rogers, and their children, Street (10), Rush (8) and Taack (10 mos).
The family extends an invitation to a come-and-go visitation at Baum-Carlock-Bumgardner Funeral Home, 302 W Hubbard St., Mineral Wells, 76067 on Thursday, May 18, 2023 from 5:30-7 p.m. Services will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 19, 2023 at the First Presbyterian Church, 300 NW 4th Ave, Mineral Wells, 76067. A reception will follow in Richard’s honor at the Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Posse Building at the Mineral Wells rodeo grounds. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Brazos Foundation, P.O. Box 901, Mineral Wells, Texas 76068, or the Richard P. Ritchie Endowment Fund by keyword searching “Ritchie” on the TAMUK Foundation giving page at https://www.javelinagiving.org/give/search_fund.
To plant Memorial Trees in memory of Richard Preston Ritchie, please click here to visit our Sympathy Store.