William “Bill” Blair Jr., a pioneering newspaper publishing and civil rights leader from Dallas,Texas, died this Sunday. Blair was 92.
Blair was the founder of Elite News, a publication he began after a stint as pitcher in the Negro Leagues. Born in Dallas on October 21, 1921, he attended Booker T. Washington High School and began pitching at the age of 16 before going on to play for several Negro League Baseball between 1946 and 1951. Blair also briefly attended Prairie View A&M University before joining the military.
In his biography, Blair wrote that he was the youngest Black first sergeant to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II at 19. After an injury to his pitching arm, Blair retired from the game. Blair’s first foray into publishing began in 1947 when he started Highlight News. Following that effort, in 1949 he established Southwest Sports News.
The Southwest Sports News focused on African-American collegiate sports. In 1960, Blair changed the name of the paper to Elite (pronounced “E-light”) News and rebranded it to cover events in the Dallas-Forth Worth African-American and church community. Blair was instrumental in getting the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade established in Dallas almost 30 years ago.
A tireless contributor to the legacy of African-Americans in Dallas, the city honored Blair by renaming Rochester Park in his honor. In 2012, Blair donated his collection of newspapers and Negro League memorabilia to the University of Texas at Arlington.
Blair’s wife of 70 years, Mozelle Jordan, was his high school sweetheart and the couple had seven children. Blair stepped down as publisher of Elite News years ago, but with instructions that it continues to serve the Dallas-Forth Worth community. His son Daryl has been charged with handling the family’s affairs and said his father worked until his final days. “
I’m 48. I had 48 years with my Dad. He had 92 years on this Earth, and he used 91-and-a-half of them to service everyone he could,” the younger Blair said to WFAA. “Even when he was in the bed, he’d try to make calls to help somebody else.” Blair’s funeral service will be held this Friday at the Concord Baptist Church in Dallas at 11 a.m.