An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Blair, James

(c. 1656-Apr. 18, 1743). Commissary to Virginia and Founder of the College of William and Mary. He was born in Scotland. Blair received his M.A. from the University of Edinburgh in 1673. He was ordained in the Church of Scotland in late June or early July, 1679. He moved to England and was ordained in the Church of England. In 1685 the Bishop of London offered him the rectorship of the parish of Henrico, then called Varina, in the colony of Virginia. On Dec. 15, 1689, the Bishop of London named Blair the Commissary to Virginia. As Commissary he wielded little official authority within the colony, but he did have great influence upon several of the governors. He began the practice of calling the clergy of the colony together for conventions. Blair looked out for the interests of the clergy and churches in the colony, and worked successfully for better salaries for clergy. Blair also sought morally sound and reliable priests for the parishes, and he fought to retain the rights of the vestries to appoint their own clergy rather than submit to royal appointments. His greatest contribution was the founding of the College of William and Mary. In 1691 he went to England to petition the King and Queen for the college. On Feb. 8, 1693, the charter was granted. In the charter Blair was named president of the college “during his natural life.” In 1694 he became the minister of the church in Jamestown. In 1710 he became the rector of Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, where he remained until his death. He was also the president of William and Mary until his death. Blair died in Williamsburg.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.