As an educator, public servant, political scientist, and writer, Diane Blair was a favorite professor at the University of Arkansas, and her book, Arkansas Politics and Government: Do the People Rule? now serves as a textbook in many universities.
Following her graduation from Cornell University, Blair worked for the President’s Committee on Government Contracts, conducted research for the Senate and served as a legislative assistant. She married Arkansan Hugh Kincaid with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps and moved to Fayetteville where she completed her master’s degree at the University of Arkansas in 1967. She was a part-time lecturer at the university, and in 1971, Gov. Dale Bumpers appointed her to chair the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1976, Gov. David Pryor selected her to chair a commission on public employee rights, and in 1979, she was assistant professor of political science at UA, where she taught courses in national government, state and local government, Arkansas politics and politics in literature. She was often voted a favorite teacher in student polls. Her marriage ended, but she married attorney James Burton Blair in 1979, and Gov. Bill Clinton performed the ceremony.
In 1980, Clinton appointed her to the commission for the Arkansas Educational Television Network where she served until 1993. She was chairperson from 1986 to 1987.
In 1982, she won the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences Master Teacher Award in politics. Always interested in women in politics, her first book, Silent Hattie Speaks: The Personal Journal of Senator Hattie Caraway, was based on the journals of the first woman to be elected U.S. Senator. Her second book, Arkansas Politics and Government: Do the People Rule?, was published in 1988. She was promoted to full professor at the University in 1990.
In 1992 and 1996, she served as an advisor on the Clinton-Gore presidential campaigns, and also chronicled the 1992 campaign as official historian. She was also selected to be a member of the Arkansas delegation to the Electoral College. She followed the campaign again in 1996, keeping journals and conducting interviews on the team’s perception of the campaign. Those papers were donated to the Special Collections at the UA Libraries. Clinton appointed Blair to the board of directors of the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting where she served from 1993 to 2000. She became chair and the boardroom was later named in her honor.
Blair died in 2000 of lung cancer. Her husband bestowed an endowment to the Fayetteville Public Library in her honor and also endowed the Diane Blair Chair of Political Science at UA. The Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas was established with funds appropriated from Congress in 2000.
Photos Credit: Special Collections, University of Arkansas Library