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The Southern States of America
Biographies - James Blair


BLAIR, James, clergyman and educator: b. Scotland, 1656; d. Williamsburg, Va., Aug. 1, 1743. He graduated at the University of Edinburgh in 1673 and became an Episcopal clergyman. In 1685, at the earnest persuasion of the Bishop of London, he went to Virginia as a missionary. He was minister at Henrico City, Jamestown, and Williamsburg. In 1689 he became commissary of Virginia, the highest ecclesiastical post in the colony. Realizing the lack of educational facilities, in 1690 he resolved to establish a college in Virginia; and in the face of the opposition of the colonial officials he obtained the charter of William and Mary College on Feb. 14, 1692, having previously solicited subscriptions to the amount of 2,500. He was president of the institution until his death, although he did not formally enter upon the duties of his office until 1729. In spite of bitter opposition, the lack of wealthy patronage and the burning of the building in 1705, his tireless energy gave success to the enterprise. After 1693 Blair was a member of the Council of Virginia, of which he was for some time president. He was instrumental in securing the removal of Governors Andros, Nicholson, and Spotswood. He probably did more than any other one man for the intellectual advancement of Virginia during the colonial period, and was truly the founder of Southern culture. His works are: Our Savior's Divine Sermon on the Mount (1722, republished 1740), containing 117 discourses; The Present State of Virginia and the College (with Hartwell and Chilton, 1727), one of the best accounts of Virginia in the latter part of the Seventeenth century.


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