[nagdu] Former legislator, activist Anita Blair dies

Ginger Kutsch gingerKutsch at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 26 13:54:24 UTC 2010

Former legislator, activist Anita Blair dies
By Alex Hinojosa \ El Paso Times
Posted: 08/26/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT

Anita Blair crosses Eighth Avenue at 34th Street in New York City
in 1946 with seeing-eye dog Fawn, who led the 23-year-old blind
woman to safety in the La Salle Hotel fire in Chicago. Blair was
in New York to offer a manuscript to book publishers and to
appear on a radio program. (AP File Photo)>> Gallery: Anita Blair

Former state representative and community activist Anita Blair
died Wednesday. She was 93. 
Blair became the first El Paso woman elected as a state
representative, in 1952. She was also the first blind woman to
serve in an elected position in the state of Texas, according to
El Paso Times archives. 
Paul Strezlin of KHRO-AM (1650) said Blair would call 15 to 20
times a week and sing to him. 
"A lot of politicians tried to knock her down," Strezlin said.
"But she was a strong-willed Democratic woman and she wouldn't
let them."
In her later years, Blair became a pioneer for the disabled and
was active in the community. 
In an interview with the Times in 1989, Blair described herself
as a "middle-of-the-road Democrat working for good government."
During her term in office, Blair found money to remodel the State
School for the Deaf. She also fought for teacher pay raises and
supported a bill that allowed women to serve on juries. 
"In so many ways, Anita was a trailblazer. As a woman, as a
person with a disability, she was fearless in the Texas House and
here in El Paso," said state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso.
"She was one of a kind -- we will miss her every morning on the
radio sharing her views of right and wrong. With Anita, you
always knew where she stood." 
Blair was a 1933 graduate 
of Austin High School who lost her sight at age 19 after a car
accident. She quickly adjusted to the darkness with help from her
guide dog, Fawn.
With Fawn at her side, Blair attended the University of Texas at
El Paso, then known as the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy.
She graduated in 1944 with a master's degree in social sciences. 
She soon became a lecturer on safety and accident prevention,
speaking at colleges, clubs and schools.
Blair gained national attention in 1946 during her stay at the
Hotel LaSalle in Chicago. She and Fawn smelled smoke, and Blair
banged on doors to alert the other guests. Fawn led her down 11
flights of stairs to safety. 
Strezlin said he hopes to raise money to help pay for her burial.

Blair is survived by her sister, Jean Spall, in San Antonio. 
Alex Hinojosa may be reached at
ahinojosa at elpasotimes.com;546-6137.

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