By the time John Fries Blair was fifty-one years old, he had lived a full and productive life. He had earned a degree from Harvard Law School and a master's degree in English from Columbia University. He had taught English at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He had been assistant director of the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill and a member of the editorial staff at the University of North Carolina Press.
But at a time when most people begin planning their retirement, John Blair began a new career—publishing. While he was an editor at the University of North Carolina Press, Blair noticed many good manuscripts, rich in regional material, which were rejected because they were not of the scholarly nature the press was publishing. In a speech before the University of North Carolina Library in 1974, Blair said, "It broke my heart to see them die."
So, in 1954, Blair published his first book, Whispering Pines, by John Henry Boner. This volume of poetry by a native of Salem, North Carolina, was first published by Brentano Brothers in 1883. Long out of print, Whispering Pines became the first in a long line of poetry books that Blair published—not for commercial success, but for the pure love of the poetic word.
Along with poetry books came more commercially successful titles about coastal North Carolina, including the perennial best-selling Judge Charles Whedbee books of folklore. Through the years, literary gems that sold minimal copies were published alongside popular cookbooks and travel guides. Since that first book, John F. Blair, Publisher has published several hundred other titles and started distribution of other publisher's titles, including books by Down Home Press, Banks Channel Books, Bandit Books, and Novello Festival Press.
After Blair's death in 1986, his family decided to continue his legacy. There have been many changes at John F. Blair, Publisher, since Blair founded it in 1954, but the current staff at Blair believes we are still carrying on the love of the printed word that Blair so passionately believed in.
We hope you enjoy our books as much as we do.