A community business leader, Joseph O'Daniel began his career at a car dealership at age 17. By the time he was 21, he and a partner, George Ranes, bought a local Oldsmobile franchise, forming O'Daniel-Ranes. He also played a large role in the development of the University of Southern Indiana, from its days as a branch of Indiana State University to its evolution as its own institution. O'Daniel often said that his work in the development of USI was his proudest accomplishment.
As president of O'Daniel-Ranes, Inc., he developed the company into a multi-million dollar enterprise. He invested with family, friends and employees in 17 automobile dealerships, two Avis franchises, Monarch Insurance Agency, Indiana Finance, Citizens National Life Insurance Company, several apartment complexes, a bowling alley, appliance store, motel, two restaurants, and a mobile home park, and was an incorporator of WTVW, the first television station in Evansville.
O’Daniel held many positions in the community including president of the Evansville and Indiana Jaycees, president of the Evansville Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Community Chest (United Way), founder and chairman of the Southern Indiana Higher Education Foundation, founder and president of USI Foundation, president of the Vanderburgh County Building Authority, and founder and chairman of the Regina Pacis Nursing Home. In addition, he as president of the Central Evansville Improvement Corporation acquired the land for the Civic Center. For his generous role in the community he was honored with many awards including the Rotary Civic Award.