O'Brien, a college basketball player in Chicago, worked as a sportswriter for the Birmingham News from 1970 to 1974 and as a tennis pro at private clubs and at East Lake Park. In the 1980s he was briefly married to Libby Rich. He later penned a newsletter for the Birmingham Better Business Bureau and began selling paintings, mainly of local landmarks and street scenes, at the Five Points fountain. He was known as a friendly eccentric, happy to talk to anyone but sensitive to criticism of his work.
He died at UAB Hospital a day after calling 911 because of trouble breathing. He had no immediate family and left no will at the time of his death.
- Diel, Stan (May 23, 2008) "Five Points South artist, former athlete Al O'Brien dies." The Birmingham News