Skip to main content
Year
1997
Month Day
October 30

Violet Palmer becomes first woman to officiate an NBA game

On October 30, 1997, 33-year-old Violet Palmer becomes the first woman to officiate an NBA game. Despite the watershed moment, there is little reaction from the crowd when she is announced before the tip-off of the Dallas Mavericks-Vancouver Grizzlies game. "This is a dream come true, but it's come about by a lot of hard work," says Palmer.

"This is a night we'll all look back on in 25 years and say, 'That opened the door,'" said NBA vice president of Rod Thorn, who attended the historic game in Vancouver. "It's only appropriate that we be here. I don't know who's more excited, Violet or me."

Palmer, who had officiated women's Final Four, WNBA and NBA Summer League games prior to her first NBA regular-season game, was eager for the challenge. Years after her debut, she told USA Today: "I was the No. 3 referee in the world for women's basketball. I had everything: The Final Four. Big TV games. All the limelight I wanted … But my personality is if you give me a challenge, I'm going to take it."

Palmer also was the first openly gay referee (she came out in 2014) and first female to referee an NBA playoff game.

Palmer earned the respect of her fellow referees, coaches and players—even basketball star Charles Barkley, who emphasized before her debut that the NBA was a "man's game." As she recounted in an interview by The History Makers in 2016, “It was probably my third or fourth year, I was in Houston and I had just finished working a game with Charles Barkley and I'm coming out with my partners and Charles came up to me and he said, ‘You know what? I was wrong.'"

Before she became a referee, Palmer starred at point guard at Compton (California) High School and later at Cal Poly Pomona University. She led the school to back-to-back Division II national championships in 1985 and 1986. 

Palmer officiated in 919 NBA games before retiring because of a knee injury in 2016. 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Rookie LeBron James' NBA debut impressive

On October 30, 2003, 18-year-old basketball prodigy LeBron James scores 25 points, grabs six rebounds and dishes out nine assists, but his Cleveland Cavaliers lose to the more experienced Sacramento Kings, 106-92. His debut is one of the most impressive in league history—only ...read more

Queen of American high society dies

Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, wife of William Waldorf Astor, the wealthy newspaper proprietor, dies at the age of 78. Even before her union with William Astor—the grandson of the American fur magnate John Jacob Astor—Caroline Schermerhorn was prime American aristocracy: She was ...read more

Quebec separatists narrowly defeated

By a bare majority of 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, citizens of the province of Quebec vote to remain within the federation of Canada. The referendum asked Quebec’s citizens, the majority of whom are French-speakers, to vote whether their province should begin the process that ...read more

This Day In History: Muhammad Ali wins the Rumble in the Jungle

Muhammad Ali wins the Rumble in the Jungle

On October 30, 1974, 32-year-old Muhammad Ali becomes the heavyweight champion of the world for the second time when he knocks out 25-year-old champ George Foreman in the eighth round of the “Rumble in the Jungle,” a match in Kinshasa, Zaire. Seven years before, Ali had lost his ...read more

John Adams is born

On October 30, 1735, John Adams, the son of a farmer and a descendant of Plymouth Rock pilgrims, is born in Braintree, Massachusetts. He enrolled in Harvard University at 16 and went on to teach school and study law before becoming America’s second president. Adams did not fight ...read more

The city of Helena, Montana, is founded after miners discover gold

On October 30, 1864, the town of Helena, Montana, is founded by four gold miners who struck it rich at the appropriately named “Last Chance Gulch.” The first major Anglo settlement of Montana had begun just two years before in the summer of 1862, when prospectors found a sizeable ...read more

“Sense and Sensibility” is published

On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is published anonymously. A small circle of people, including the Prince Regent, learned Austen’s identity, but most of the British public knew only that the popular book had been written “by a ...read more

Perfect storm hits North Atlantic

On October 30, 1991, the so-called “perfect storm” hits the North Atlantic producing remarkably large waves along the New England and Canadian coasts. Over the next several days, the storm spread its fury over the ocean off the coast of Canada. The fishing boat Andrea Gail and ...read more

Ottoman Empire signs treaty with Allies

On October 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon, anchored in the port of Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, representatives of Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire sign an armistice treaty marking the end of Ottoman participation in the First World War. Though ...read more

FDR approves Lend-Lease aid to the USSR

On October 30, 1941, President Roosevelt, determined to keep the United States out of the war while helping those allies already mired in it, approves $1 billion in Lend-Lease loans to the Soviet Union. The terms: no interest and repayment did not have to start until five years ...read more

Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio play is broadcast

“The War of the Worlds”—Orson Welles's realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth—is broadcast on the radio on October 30, 1938.  Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’s 19th-century science fiction novel The ...read more