Jim Blackburn headshot

Jim Blackburn

Albemarle High School


Jim Blackburn, born in 1948, was the son of University of Virginia football coach George Blackburn, who coached at UVA from 1964 to 1971. Jim’s family moved to Charlottesville from Cincinnati just prior to his junior year in high school in 1964 and he attended Albemarle High School. He went on to play football at the University of Virginia for his father, and then served as a student-assistant football coach in his fifth year. Jim was a close observer of his dad's recruitment of good athletes who could meet the University’s demanding academic requirements. He reported that there was “subtle pressure” from the University’s administration at the time to recruit African American student-athletes in order to field winning teams and be more “with the times.” At the same time, Jim also observed some not-so-subtle pressure from some of the University’s most generous donors to avoid recruiting Black athletes. Jim’s roots were in the Midwest and the idea of “Black high schools,” such as Burley High School in Charlottesville, was a novelty, something “really strange.” Though facing a situation quite different than he had experienced at his previous coaching positions, Jim’s father succeeded in recruiting four outstanding Black athletes to play on the team: the first ever to play at UVA. Jim coached these young men on the freshman team in the fall of 1970. Coach Blackburn and his staff had notable success, despite having limited scholarships and sub-par facilities with which to attract talented athletes. The four Black football players brought new life to the football program, but Jim’s father never got the chance to coach these four ground-breaking student-athletes. Jim’s father was fired after the 1970 season ended.

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