DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – What Elite News founder and political activist William “Bill” Blair Jr. lacked in know-how, those who knew him best said he made up for in perseverance. Blair died Sunday morning at the age of 92.
In 1960, with no journalism background, Blair started the weekly newspaper which has become the oldest African American publication in North Texas. The free newspaper can still be found at most churches in south Dallas.
“I’m telling you, he started out with a piece of paper and a Xerox, and no one was paying attention to him,” said former Dallas councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw about the newspaper’s humble beginning. “And he kept on talking and talking before finally people began to listen.”
After 30 years as publisher, Blair turned over daily Elite News operations to his children, although he still wrote columns for the weekly edition, including one printed two days before his death. “He used that newspaper as a platform to help and promote people,” said Blair’s son, Darryl.
A political endorsement from Blair in the Elite News carried a lot of weight in the south Dallas community. His son said, “If he liked you and loved you, my daddy would get up every Sunday and say, ‘We are going to visit six churches.’ Ask any candidates. ‘We are going to do to six churches and I am going to announce you and promote you with the newspaper.’ That’s what my daddy did.”
During World War II, Blair enlisted in the U.S. Army. His family said, at the age of 19, he became the youngest sergeant to serve during that conflict.
After his military career, Blair played professional baseball. In 1946, he became a pitcher for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro League. He played for several other Negro League teams before an injury to his pitching arm forced him to retire in 1951.
Despite recording a no-hitter during his career, for many, his biggest victory did not even come on the diamond. It came years later, when he advocated a change to the city’s Martin Luther King march. Blair thought that the City of Dallas MLK march should be on a Monday — not Saturday. When the city wouldn’t budge, he started his own parade.
This year marked the 28th annual Elite MLK Parade in Dallas. “He started out with four cars,” recalled Crenshaw. “Now, it’s the largest MLK parade in the United States of America.”
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