Earl W. O'Neal, Jr. 

In his youth, Earl’s family moved to Pennsylvania, where work was more plentiful in the pre-war years. Earl grew up there and lost his Elizabethan brogue, so wonderfully spoken by those originally from the Pamlico and Core Sound area. He spoke with a charming modified “Yankee” dialect, using Elizabethan words for the rest of his life.

Earl graduated high school there just late enough to miss combat in World War II, but did enter the U.S. Army in time for the conflict in Korea. His vocation was strong in engineering and math and he ended up in Army Intelligence. After seeing combat in Korea, most of which he would never talk about, he was assigned to engineering and working on some of the very first nuclear power plants in America, some of which he personally designed. His career in the early nuclear power field can be traced in the history books. He helped investigate the reactor failure at the SL-1 power plant in Idaho Falls in January 1961.

He eventually left the military and became an executive at a leading corporation. This company supplied all the nuclear plants in the US and many other countries with plumbing and measuring instrumentation, some of which had been designed by Earl himself.

Earl eventually retired and returned home to a house he had designed and built himself on his beloved Ocracoke Island, where he lived until his death. Here, Earl dove in to the study of his family and several other native to Ocracoke and eastern North Carolina. He became active in the local museums and historic preservation of Ocracoke and its history. This is how we came to meet and know this man dedicated to history.

Earl was instrumental in raising money for SIDCO. He also lodged our divers in his own home at no expense.   


While we worked in the nearby waters of Ocracoke Inlet, his research tied directly in to the history we were recovering just miles away.

In loving memory, The SIDCO Crew. 

Earl's most recent book
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Earl giving a history talk
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Photo by Ocracoke Observer
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