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Johnny Grier, the NFL’s first Black referee who officiated for 24 seasons in the league, has died. He was 74.

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Grier’s death was confirmed by Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president for football operations.

Grier “was a trailblazer who paved the way for those in the field of @NFLOfficiating and beyond,” Vincent tweeted.

A North Carolina native, Grier began his officiating career as a high school referee in 1965 and then moved up to the college ranks in 1972, according to Football He joined the NFL as a field judge in 1981 and worked Super Bowl XXII before getting promoted to referee in 1988, according to NBC Sports.

“I can’t help but note that I am the first Black referee because everybody keeps telling me that,” Grier said in a 1988 interview. “To me, it’s nothing more than a job progression.”

According to, Grier worked 15 playoff games in a 24-year career as an official, including working as a referee for the 1993 AFC Championship Game.

Grier’s career as an official ended in 2004 when he injured his leg, according to Yahoo Sports. He later worked as an officiating supervisor for the NFL and supervisor of officials for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.