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Hall of Fame official Art McNally dies at 97

Shannon and Connor O'Hara, the grandchildren of Art McNally's admire their grandfather's bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton on Saturday, August 6, 2022.

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Art McNally, the first NFL game official enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died at age 97, the organization announced Monday.

Tom McNally, one of the retired official’s four children, said in a news release issued by the Hall of Fame that his father died Sunday of natural causes at a hospital in Newtown, Pa.

The elder McNally was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022.

McNally began refereeing games among fellow service members when he served in the Marines during World War II, chosen by his peers because he was “the man with the most integrity to do the job,” the Hall of Fame’s news release said.

He joined the NFL’s officiating crew as a field judge in 1959, then served as a referee from 1960-67. He transitioned to the role as supervisor of officials, a job he held until his first retirement in 1991. He is credited with implementing systems to train and evaluate officials, among his achievements.

“Art McNally was a quiet, honest man of integrity,” said Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “To see Art’s decades of service recognized with his enshrinement as part of the Class of 2022 was a special moment for the Hall. His legacy as a strong leader who helped usher in the advanced training of officials and the technology necessary to keep up with a faster and more complicated game will be preserved forever in Canton.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called him “a Hall of Fame person in absolutely every way.”

“Art McNally was an extraordinary man, the epitome of integrity and class,” Goodell said. “Throughout his distinguished officiating career, he earned the eternal respect of the entire football community.”

Post-1991, McNally served as supervisor of officials for the World League of American Football — the precursor to NFL Europe — and then returned to the NFL and worked as assistant supervisor of officiating from 1995-2007. He stayed on with the NFL until 2015 as an officiating observer and trainer.

The officiating command center at NFL headquarters is named “Art McNally GameDay Central.”

–Field Level Media