Johnny Grier, first Black referee in NFL history, passes away at age of 74

Johnny Grier, the first Black referee in NFL history, has passed away, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent announced Wednesday. He was 74.

Grier worked NFL games for 23 years (1981-2004), beginning as a field judge before being promoted to referee in 1988. His final game as a field judge was Super Bowl XXII, which saw Doug Williams become the first Black starting quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Grier worked 15 playoff games overall, according to

The North Carolina native began officiating high school football at 18 years old. He moved on to college football in 1972. During his NFL officiating career, he also served as the director of officiating for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Grier followed in the footsteps of Burl Toler, the first Black official in the NFL who served as a field judge and head linesman from 1965-1989.