Paul James has been one of the most dedicated servants of North Carolina soccer for close to three decades … and yet the contributions continue. Every aspect of the game in the state has felt his impact – youth, adult, high school, college and professional. The impact has not been minimal. It has been felt at the most mundane level – in the day-to-day work of soccer officials – and on the wide plain of state and national events – where philosophy and politics are often at play. It is an impact that has helped to shape soccer in North Carolina.
Born in Philadelphia in 1959 to Dr. Paul M. James Jr. and Janet Edith Lewis James (now Honecker), Paul’s family moved to Winston-Salem in 1969, where Paul attended Summit School and Forsyth Country Day School. He attended Duke University from 1978 to 1982, graduating cum laude with departmental distinction in history and honors, and the UNC-CH School of Law between 1982 and 1985, graduating with a Juris Doctor degree.
Admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 1985, Paul served in private practice with firms in the Triad area between 1986 and 2003. In 2003, he moved into the public sector as a senior assistant public defender and won the Harvey Lupton award for best criminal defense lawyer in Forsyth County in 2005.
Paul started his referee career in 1974 in Winston Salem. Beginning in 1981, while a student at Duke, in addition to officiating, he served as referee assigner for the Central Carolina Youth Soccer Association and joined the Triangle Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association. He remains active as a high school game official and has refereed five boys State high school championships. Paul became a United States Soccer Federation National Referee in 1990, a USSF National Assessor in 2000 and assumed Emeritus National Referee status in 2000. In 1990 he became a National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association National Referee. He served as an official in the professional ranks in the ‘90’s.
In 1982, Paul was appointed as State Youth Referee Administrator for North Carolina. Together with other referee leaders he shares the credit for helping the North Carolina referee program to become one of the finest in the country. Hallmarks of his contributions include introduction of the area referee administrator role and development of mentoring and training programs to nurture and support young referees.
Paul was appointed as principal assigner for the TISOA collegiate soccer group in North Carolina in the mid ‘90’s and still holds the position. Currently he is the director of officials for the Southern Conference, the Big South Conference and the South Atlantic Conference. He has refereed the semi-finals of the Division I NCAA women’s tournament twice.
Paul’s contributions to soccer have not remained unnoticed. NCYSA honored him in 1995 as Referee of the Year, in 2001 as the Tom & Linda Mosier Service Award recipient and in 2002 as a Pioneer of the Game. In 2006 NCYSA elected to permanently name its Young Referee of the Year awards in his honor. In addition, in 2001 TISOA presented Paul with its William Utter Service Award and in 2007 the North Carolina High School Athletic Association honored him as the recipient of its Dick Knox Distinguished Service Award.
An observer of Paul’s contributions to North Carolina soccer wrote that Paul joined North Carolina soccer as a young man in the early ‘80’s, full of energy and enthusiasm, and that his devotion to the game never flagged in the years that followed. There always appeared to be two primary dimensions to his life – a devotion to the practice of law and a commitment to serve soccer. The two dimensions have been equal beneficiaries, each receiving a full-time devotion of time and attention, albeit at different times of the day and week. While all levels of soccer have benefited from Paul’s devotion to the game, it is youth soccer that may stand as the primary beneficiary. Paul ranks as the longest-serving member of the NCYSA Executive Board, having served without a break in time for 25 years as SYRA and, for a significant part of the time, as the unofficial legal advisor of NCYSA. It is unlikely that anybody will ever match him in length of service.
Always identifiable on the pitch … and off … by his red hair, Paul will be remembered for all time for his clear, decisive approach to officiating and administration.