James Thomas Blair Jr. was born in Maryville, MO on March 15, 1902 to James T. Blair and Grace E. Ray. His father was very active in state government, serving in the House of Representatives 1899-1901, assistant attorney general 1909-1910, and on the Missouri Supreme Court 1915-1924. Blair Jr. attended Jefferson City public schools, and played with the sons of Governor Herbert Hadley as a child. He attended Staunton Military Academy in Virginia before pursuing a higher education at Southwest Missouri State College, University of Missouri in Columbia, and Cumberland University in Tennessee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in law at Cumberland, and returned to Jefferson City in 1924 to practice law.
One year later, Blair Jr. was elected city attorney; he was the only Democrat elected to office in 1925. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1928 and 1930, and in 1931 became the youngest man to hold the office of majority floor leader. He was also the youngest man to be voted president of the Missouri State Bar Association, which happened when he was only 28 years old.
In May of 1942, Blair Jr. entered the air force and served in Europe for three years. Part of his service included night flights from England to Africa. When his period of active service was finished, he was a lieutenant colonel awarded with the Air Medal, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Presidential Unit Citation, eleven battle stars, and Arrow Head.
Blair Jr. was elected mayor of Jefferson City in 1947, an office he held until he was elected lieutenant governor in 1949. He served as lieutenant governor until 1957, when he was elected governor of Missouri.
During his term as governor, the state highway patrol was expanded, a water pollution board was organized, highway speed limits were created, and a state employee retirement plan was instituted. He also fought against segregation and discrimination, and proposed the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which was established in May of 1957. Blair Jr. was a advocate for social welfare, junior colleges, education for children with special needs, and regulation of nursing homes that ensured their adequate care of the elderly.
In 1926, Blair Jr. married Emilie Chorn of Kansas City, and the couple had two children, James T. Blair III and Mary Margaret Cook. Blair Jr.’s gubernatorial term ended in 1961, but sadly he and his wife died in their home on July 12, 1962, when their car was accidentally left running in their garage.← Bauer, A. J. Busch, Hugo →