James T. Blair, Jr.

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James T. Blair, Jr.
44th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 14, 1957 – January 9, 1961
Lieutenant Edward V. Long
Preceded by Phil M. Donnelly
Succeeded by John M. Dalton
35th Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
In office
January 10, 1949 – January 14, 1957
Governor Forrest Smith (1949-1953)
Phil M. Donnelly (1953-1957)
Preceded by Walter N. Davis
Succeeded by Edward V. Long
Member of the Missouri House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born James Thomas Blair, Jr.
(1902-03-15)March 15, 1902
Maysville, Missouri
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Kansas City, Missouri
Resting place Riverview Cemetery
Jefferson City, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Emilie (Chorn) Blair
Children James T. Blair III (son)
Mary Margaret Blair (daughter)
Parents James T. Blair, Sr.
Grace (Ray) Blair
Profession Politician

James Thomas Blair, Jr. (March 15, 1902 – July 12, 1962) was a Democratic politician from the state of Missouri. He was the 44th Governor of Missouri as well as serving as the 35th Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and a member of the Missouri House of Representatives.[1][2]

Personal history

Blair was born in Maysville, Missouri to James T. Blair, Sr. and Grace (Ray) Blair. His father was a prominent lawyer in Springfield, Missouri who would later serve as an assistant Attorney General for the state of Missouri and, in 1914, be appointed a judge to the Missouri Supreme Court.[3] Blair Jr. attended the Jefferson City, Missouri public schools and Staunton Military Academy in Virginia before pursuing higher education at Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Missouri State University) and the University of Missouri. He earned his law degree in 1924 from Cumberland University in Tennessee.[4] Blair married his wife Emilie Chorn of Kansas City in July, 1926. They were the parents of two children, a son, James T. Blair III, and daughter Mary Margaret. During World War II Blair served in the US Army Air Forces in the European Theater. He received the Air Medal, Legion of Merit, and Bronze Star among other awards as he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Political history

Blair first entered politics shortly after graduation from law school by running for and winning election as city attorney for Jefferson City in 1925. In 1928, Blair won election to the first of two consecutive terms in Missouri House of Representatives.[5] Following his second term in the General Assembly, Blair left politics to focus on his private law practice until his service in World War II. Blair returned to politics in 1947 with his election as mayor of Jefferson City. His mayoral term was short-lived, however, as in 1948 he was elected Missouri's Lieutenant Governor, a post he held until he assumed the office of Governor, winning that race in November 1956.[6]

As governor, Blair was known as a civil rights advocate, declaring to the General Assembly Always and everywhere I will identify myself with any victim of oppression or discrimination...and I will support him. This helped lead to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 1957.[7] While in office, Blair was also an advocate of welfare reform and extending health insurance to the disabled. Under his governorship the first budget control and review office was established.[8] Other highlights include a nursing home licensing law, establishing a Council on Higher Education, expansion of the Missouri Highway Patrol and setting of road speed limits, and setting up a state employee pension fund. At the time Missouri law prohibited a second consecutive term as governor, leading to Blair's retirement from politics after leaving office in January 1961.


James T. Blair's retirement would be short-lived. On July 12, 1962 Blair and his wife were found dead in their suburban Jefferson City home due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigators theorized the homes central air conditioning system sucked in exhaust fumes from a vehicle accidentally left running in the garage.[9] Governor Blair and his wife were buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Jefferson City.


Political offices
Preceded by
Walter Naylor Davis
Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Edward V. Long
Preceded by
Phil M. Donnelly
Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
John M. Dalton