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Jim Burch etched his name in the history books when he became the first Black referee to officiate a men’s basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, best known as the ACC. The North Carolina native passed away last weekend and we look back at his six-decade career.

Burch, who grew up for a time in Larchmont, N.Y., was a two-sport athlete at Fayetteville State University and began his officiating career in North Carolina high schools before joining the CIAA ranks as an official in 1959. He would join the ACC a decade later, but his debut was delayed for a season because he reportedly refused to cut his hair and sideburns.

Over the course of 60 years, Burch not only officiated 14 NCAA tournaments, he also worked games fro the Southern and MEAC conferences. Burch was also the head coordinator of officials for the South Atlantic Conference and the CIAA before retiring last year.

Burch passed on his knowledge of the game as a teacher for new officials in training, with many former students taking note of his humility regarding his historic mark, stating he never made a big deal about it. He was also an educator within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

Burch was 91 years old.

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