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Burl Toler, Sr.

Burl Toler, Sr. was born on May 9, 1928 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was one of four children born to Pullman Porter A.W. Toler and educator Annie King Toler. Throughout his childhood, Toler’s parents stressed education. Upon graduating from high school, Toler decided to enroll in Lemoyne College in Memphis, Tennessee. In the early 1950s, Toler moved to San Francisco, California enrolling in the City College of San Francisco. Toler played on the college football team and was named All-American player in the Junior College division. This honor afforded him the opportunity to receive a full four year scholarship to play football at the University of San Francisco.

Toler majored in education while playing as a linebacker with the University of San Francisco Dons. In 1951, Toler and his team were undefeated with a perfect 9-0 season. Toler was drafted into the National Football League (NFL) in 1952 by the Cleveland Browns. He injured his knee during an all-star game that ended his opportunity to play professional football. Shortly thereafter, he became a teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in San Francisco. He also began officiating college games in the San Francisco area. Toler became the first African American football official for the NFL in 1965, later officiating three NFL Super Bowl games. He retired as a NFL official in 1991. The book Undefeated, Untied and Uninvited, the story of the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons has been turned into a screenplay by former San Francisco 49er player Jamie Williams.

During the course of his seventeen year career at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Toler served as the first African American secondary school principal in the district. The city council honored Toler by renaming the school Burl A. Toler Middle School. Toler was inducted in the City College and University of San Francisco Hall of Fame. He received several awards including the Isaac Hayes Achievement in Sports Award and the University of San Francisco Alumnus of the Year. The Burl A. Toler, Sr. Scholarship has been named in Toler’s honor at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco.

Toler retired and lived in San Francisco, but he continued to work as an evaluator and recruiter for NFL referees until his passing on August 16, 2009 at the age of 81.

Toler was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 7, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.069

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/7/2006

Last Name

Toler

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Manassas High School

LeMoyne-Owen College

University of San Francisco

City College of San Francisco

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Burl

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

TOL03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/9/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Health Food

Death Date

8/16/2009

Short Description

Football referee Burl Toler, Sr. (1928 - 2009 ) was the first African American official in the National Football League.

Employment

National Football League

Benjamin Franklin Middle School

City College of San Francisco

Peabody Hotel

Favorite Color

Brown

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Burl Toler, Sr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Burl Toler, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his family life as a child in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his experiences in elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his maternal relatives' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his personality during elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes the role of church in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his experiences at Memphis' Manassas High School

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his experiences at Memphis' Lemoyne College

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his experiences at the City College of San Francisco

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Burl Toler, Sr. remembers Oakland, California's DeFremery Recreation Center

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls playing football at the University of San Francisco, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls playing football at the University of San Francisco, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his career in education in San Francisco

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls the accolades he received from teachers and students

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls earning a graduate degree at the University of San Francisco

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls becoming a National Football League official

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his experience of racial discrimination on the University of San Francisco football team

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his interactions with Pete Rozelle

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his early career as a football referee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his career as a National Football League official

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Burl Toler, Sr. reflects upon the growing number of black NFL referees

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls experiencing discrimination as a black NFL referee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls his work as an evaluator of NFL referees

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Burl Toler, Sr. talks about his wife and children

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls working at the City College of San Francisco

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Burl Toler, Sr. recalls serving as City College of San Francisco's personnel director

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his involvement in the community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes his life since his retirement in the 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Burl Toler, Sr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Burl Toler, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Burl Toler, Sr. narrates his photographs