Betty Blair, former Detroit News reporter and editor, dies at 94

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Betty Blair’s inquisitiveness served her well in a lengthy journalism career.

That quest for knowledge and love of learning made her a fascinating conversationalist, friends said.

“She was a relatively quiet person, but she had very strong opinion based on fact,” said Edward Sharples, a longtime friend. “She was a wonderful, bright, loving person.”

Mrs. Blair, a former Detroit News staffer, died Wednesday, June 15, 2022, while in hospice care. She was 94.

Betty Blair, a former Detroit News staffer.

Much of her career was at The News, where she worked more than 20 years and served as both an editor and reporter, friends said.

Mrs. Blair spearheaded women-focused coverage at other publications before starting the health and fitness beat at The News, said her longtime friend, Maury Okun, president of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings.

“She was so passionate about journalism,” he said. “I heard so many things about the issues she got to write about. She got to meet some really interesting people.”

Mrs. Blair also reveled in helping more women succeed in the newsroom, he said.

“Opening opportunities for people was what she was most interested in.”

After leaving The News in 1992, she enjoyed traveling with her husband, Art.

Devotees of classical music, the couple started supporting Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings. Each spent stints on the group’s board and were heavily involved, from highlighting concerts to raising funds, Okun said. “They were both incredible great cheerleaders and great coaches for us.”

Born Betty Evers on April 28, 1928, Mrs. Blair grew up in Wisconsin.

She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in English literature and journalism, friends said.

Her career included jobs at the Capital Times in Madison and the Des Moines Register, Okun said.

She also worked in other states out West before relocating to Detroit in 1972 to join The News, said another longtime friend, Nancy Duffy.

Mrs. Blair long recalled the events and figures she covered in her career, including once interviewing Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

Since Mrs. Blair was known for being forthright and honest in sharing views some considered liberal, Duffy asked how she managed to keep quiet.

"She said, 'Well, that was a professional job and you had to be gracious and careful in what you said. You were interviewing them and wanting their opinion,'"  Duffy recalled.

Within a few years of joining The News, Mrs. Blair married Art, a mechanic who repaired mail-processing equipment for 28 years for the U.S. Postal Service.

Following her husband's death in 2008, Mrs. Blair relocated from Rochester Hills to Birmingham.

She remained devoted to the area’s arts scene and was active at Birmingham Unitarian Church.

As a member, Mrs. Blair made special contributions so the congregations could host programs with instrumentals, said Sharples, a former committee chairman also on the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings board.

“She was always interested in high-quality music,” he said.

Besides amassing a collection of music and books large enough to donate to a university when she moved, Mrs. Blair loved tending to cats, even judging in shows and adopting one with special needs, Duffy said.

"She was quite an authority on cats."

Mrs. Blair read voraciously and loved learning about a wide array of topics, Okun said. “Curiosity was a big part of her life. She was smart, she was kind and made friends easily.”

A memorial is planned later this year.