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James Blair
1656-1743
 


In 1693 He Founded the Second Oldest
U.S. Educational Institution


The Rev. James Blair is best known as the founder of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is the second oldest educational institution in the nation, having been authorized in 1693 by King William and Queen Mary. James Blair was born in 1656. Details about his birth are obscure. Some say he was born in Aberdeen; others say Edinburgh. He received his undergraduate work at Aberdeen's Marischal College and his graduate work at the University of Edinburgh Blair's father was a Presbyterian clergyman, but the son decided that he preferred the Anglican church. With many Scots hostile to the Church of England, Blair decided to leave Scotland for England. He was ordained into the Church of England and sent to Virginia. He arrived in the colonies in 1685 and for the next 54 years was the sole representative in authority of the Anglican church in Virginia. Fired with the zeal of John Knox, who insisted that all Scots be able to read and write, Blair became enamored of the idea that Virginia would have a University on the Scottish model. He returned to England, received the charter, and was given some architectural drawings for the college by Christopher Wren. Ground was broken for the college in 1695, and Blair staffed it with as many Scots as he could find. Blair served as administrator of the college in its early years. He died April 18, 1743. One of the college's most notable alumni was Thomas Jefferson. Blair insisted that the college have the same high standards that prevailed in Scottish universities. Long after his death his influence remained in the requirement of certain subjects. The college also originated Phi Beta Kappa.
 

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546

2014