Building a Legacy!
Written by Dr Jim Tunney on October 22, 2018
On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS October 22, 2018, #715… Building a Legacy!
After further review… Heading into my fifth year as an NFL official, a new official joined our officiating corps, namely Burl Abron Toler, an African American. That’s an important addition to Toler’s name, since he then became the first African American on-field NFL official. He was chosen from the NCAA Pacific Coast Conference (now called the Pac-12). I had known Toler since I also had officiated in the PCC. As an NFL rookie, Toler was placed in the on-field position of Head Linesman and assigned to the crew of veteran referee Dr. Norm Schachter.
A few years later, Toler was re-assigned to the crew where I was the referee. We spent 11 years as crew mates. I became part of Toler’s family; he had six children, and he and wife Melvia accepted me as I did them. Toler was an educator as was I, so we had a lot in common. We had many memorable NFL games together, but none so infamous as Monday, November 27, 1978 – a MNF game in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park with the Steelers and the 49ers. About one hour before game time, NFL security entered our dressing room to announce that San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in their offices late that afternoon. The decision to play or postpone the game was in the hands of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, but also of great concern was the fact that Toler, who was with us in that locker room, had been working in those same downtown San Francisco offices. While the game was allowed to go on, my concern was more for Toler and his impending on-field job. He performed, as he always did, at his best, yet knowing what lay ahead for him the next day.
The personal strength and character of Toler is what continues as his family legacy. His principalship at Ben Franklin Middle School was so significant that in 2006 the school was renamed in his honor. Although Toler died in 2009, his legacy lives on though Burl Jr., Burl III, and now Burl IV. He always told them “Do your best and your best will be good enough.” Burl Jr. was good athlete at University of California, Berkeley (Bears) as was Burl lll, who is now Cal’s running back coach. During a recent game at Cal’s Memorial Stadium, Burl Jr. accepted the Glenn Seaborg Award, in his dad’s honor, while Burl III prowled the Bears sideline.
Will you assure your family’s legacy in the manner that Burl Toler, Sr. did?