William "Bill" Blair, a man who made history and later helped record North Texas history as a newspaper publisher passed away Sunday, according to family members. Blair was 92.
Blair was the publisher of The Elite News newspaper, which focused coverage of the black community for decades. The newspaper was the primary sponsor of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade, one of the largest events in the nation honoring the slain civil rights leader.
Blair's family told NBC 5 that he will be laid to rest on Friday, April 25, but further details are pending.
Blair was born in Dallas on Oct. 17, 1921. He attended Booker T. Washington High School and Prairie View A&M University. He enlisted in the United States Army and became the youngest black first sergeant during World War II. Between 1946-1951, Blair pitched for the Indianapolis Clowns and other Negro League baseball teams.
In 1947, Blair founded the Highlight News. That was followed by the Southwest Sports News, which published scores from black college games. In 1960, the newspaper was renamed The Elite News.
In 2010, NBC 5 profiled The Elite News for a story. In an interview with NBC 5's Kristi Nelson, Blair's son Jordan said, "our niche is the church community and doing things within our community, covering our stories that people normally don't cover."
William Blair later lost his son Jordan in February 2012 to cancer.
In June 2012, Blair donated his collection of newspaper materials and Negro League memorabilia to the University of Texas at Arlington.
In addition to being a publisher and athlete, Blair fought for civil rights and helped recognize church leaders with the Religious Hall of Fame that began in 2004.
The City of Dallas renamed Rochester Park William "Bill" Blair Jr. Park in 2011.
Blair’s son, Darryl Blair, has been handed the legacy of the family’s print business.
“My dad — his challenge was to us, once a task has begun, never stop until it’s done,” he said, adding that his father’s vision for the paper was to “promote people” and “the good of our community”.
Blair said his father’s message to his children, as well as the politicians and community leaders he supported in its pages, was simple: “Do what you can do.”
“His failure was that he didn’t know how to say no even in light of insurmountable opposition and obstacles. He would try to overcome. He just believed in what he could do.”
A memorial service for Blair will be held Friday at Concord Baptist Church at 6808 Pastor Bailey Drive in Dallas. The service is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.