DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of people are expected to honor the man who played a leading role for civil rights in North Texas. The funeral for William “Bill” Blair Jr. will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning at Concord Church in south Oak Cliff. Blair died on Sunday at the age of 92.
Blair was a pioneer in a number of arenas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and became the youngest black sergeant during World War II. Blair also pitched in the Negro leagues and launched the Southwest Sport News, which published scores from black college games across the country.
But Blair will long be remembered by many as a DFW civil rights activist and the publisher of Elite News, which he founded in 1960 as Highlight News. The newspaper’s slogan was “the official voice of the church and community,” and that it was. The community was connected in the pages of that paper.
“When someone has invested this much into the community, you just never really think of being without them, in a sense,” said U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. “He’s one of the stalwarts that we now will have to rest on memory.”
Blair’s free newspaper kept the African American community informed. In many ways, Blair was a voice for the black community for more than six decades, even with no journalism background. A political endorsement in the pages of Elite News carried a lot of weight. The newspaper was distributed largely at churches and public events.
“He had a great relationship with the clergy community throughout the city,” Johnson said. “He distributed the paper out at all the churches. He would pass out materials at the churches. If you wanted to be in touch with a minister’s group, or speak before a minister’s group, you could call Mr. Blair and he could direct you to the right person.”
Blair died last Sunday after a lengthy illness.
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