Civic leader Jim Paul Blair dies at 58

Blair

Musician, health administrator, historian, humanitarian and columnist Jim Paul Blair has died at the age of 58, said his friend and colleague Cliff Casteel.

“The guy was involved in so much. He’s irreplaceable,” Casteel said. “He was everything from a singer/songwriter, showman, he was in the medical industry, to a friend, to a husband — he was just involved with the arts. The guy was everywhere. He’s irreplaceable.”

Ched Wetz of the Muskogee Medical Foundation called Blair’s passing a tremendous loss.

“Nothing that I can say to you can express how I feel, what kind of void there is, losing him because he has been such a close friend, confidant, not just the things he has done for me, but what he has done for the community,” Wetz said. “It’s really a loss I cannot express.”

Wetz, a former hospital administrator, recalled first working with Blair in the 1990s at what was then Muskogee Regional Medical Center.

“He came on as controller and moved on to be chief financial officer and eventually became chief executive officer,” Wetz said. “He had an instrumental job with the administration of the hospital and was extremely well accepted by both the employees and medical staff.”

Blair helped the community in many ways through the Muskogee Medical Foundation. Wetz said he and Blair worked together on the annual free drive-through immunization clinic Boo on the Flu.

“He put together the Christmas dinner for anyone, specifically for the needy,” Wetz said. “That was his doing. It was his idea. It certainly is something we want to keep going.”

Wetz said Blair “always had a heart for the needs of people in the city.”

“He thought more about other people than about himself,” he said.

Blair also was involved in a broad range of community projects and efforts, including the Muskogee Tourism Board, the Muskogee Medical Authority, Muskogee Little Theatre, Okie Country 101.7, and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, among others. 

“He came in Thursday mornings and joined me on my morning shows. We called it Jim Blair’s Anything Goes on Thursday mornings,” Casteel said. “And actually about anything would go when he was here. He was kind of a wild card. He was always a lot of fun.”

Blair was recently hospitalized with a lung infection, Casteel said.

Noted opera singer Barbara McAlister recalled how helpful Blair was when she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Blair was OMHOF executive director at the time.

“He made sure my friend, Tim, came and played for me” at the induction ceremony, McAlister said. “That was really special for me. He paid for Tim’s flight to be here with me.”

McAlister called Blair “the Music Man.”

“He was just an incredible human being, he was always kind,” McAlister said. “He was always wonderful to me. Whenever I was around, he would always come and sit with me, and we’d just talk music.”

Blair’s colleague on the tourism board, Max Boydstun, spoke of meeting and striking up a friendship with Blair over their shared interests.

“Jim and I became friends over 20 years ago when we discovered our mutual passions for music, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and economic development through tourism,” Boydstun said. “We served on many boards and committees together. He was tireless in promoting his adopted hometown.”

Boydstun said Blair was a man who thought with both sides of his brain, so to speak.

“Both sides of Jim’s mind functioned fully,” he said. “The creative side and the analytical side worked as a team, which is pretty rare. He could go from writing a funny song lyric to negotiating a contentious contract in an afternoon, and do them both well...I will miss him as a friend, an adviser, a confidant, and a pickin’ buddy.”

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