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Joe F. Blair, Publicist for Redskins, U-Md., Dies

By Ken Denlinger
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 16, 1995

Joe F. Blair, a pioneer in sports publicity who worked for the University of Maryland and the Washington Redskins for most of the last 45 years, died of a stroke-related illness Nov. 15 in a Pittsburgh hospital. He was 72.

Mr. Blair, a native of Freeport, Pa., suffered the stroke Oct. 27 on a plane to Maryland's football game against the University of Louisville. On Monday, he was transferred from a Louisville hospital to Allegheny General Hospital, near where his sister Jean Wheeler lives.

Mr. Blair was salutatorian of the Freeport High School Class of 1941. He spent three years as a tail gunner in the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific during World War II. He lost part of a finger during one mission and received a Purple Heart.

After the war, Mr. Blair enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. He transferred to the University of Missouri, where he received his degree and was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. There, he worked for another man who helped define sports publicity, Bill Callahan.

Mr. Blair became sports information director at the University of Maryland in 1950 and helped several coaches and players achieve national prominence. Among them were coach Jim Tatum and all-Americans Bob Ward (1951), Dick Modzelewski and Jack Scarbath (1952), Stan Jones (1953), Bob Pellegrini (1955) and Gary Collins (1961).

Maryland's football team was named national champions over the University of Notre Dame in 1953, in part because of the behind-the-scenes work Mr. Blair did in influencing voters who were unable to see either team play. Mr. Blair hosted more than sports reporters for the 1957 Maryland-University of North Carolina game, which Britain's Queen Elizabeth II attended in Byrd Stadium.

Mr. Blair left Maryland and joined the Redskins in 1962. He remained with them for most of the next 21 years. During that time, the coaches with whom he worked included Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, George Allen and Jack Pardee, one of his favorites. Players during that time included quarterbacks Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann, running back Larry Brown and pass receivers Bobby Mitchell, Pat Richter, Jerry Smith and Charley Taylor.

In 1983, Mr. Blair returned to the University of Maryland and was honored many times by the school and other organizations. In 1993, he received the Atlantic Coast Conference's highest honor for service, the Marvin "Skeeter" Francis Award. That same year, he joined the 1953 national championship team during an anniversary presentation at Byrd Stadium. He became an honorary member of Maryland's letterman organization, the M Club, a year later. The working area of Maryland's press box is named for Mr. Blair and one of the men he helped train, Jack Zane. A bachelor, Mr. Blair is survived by four sisters and a brother.

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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