Colorado Proud: Honoring African American Omar D. Blair for his lifetime of service to the community, state and country
Throughout Black History Month, celebrated from Feb. 1 to March 1, RTD recognizes and celebrates Black empowerment and achievements in the face of racism and oppression.
RTD salutes Tuskegee Airman and first African American president of the Denver Board of Education Omar D. Blair, a passionate advocate for the Denver African American community.
Born in Houston, Texas, in 1918, Blair graduated from high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then attended UCLA for two years. He left school during World War II to join the famed Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, where he achieved the rank of captain. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces.
After moving to Denver in 1951, Blair became active in community affairs. From 1968 to 1978, he served on the Denver Urban Renewal Authority and helped initiate construction of Denver’s 16th Street Mall in 1973.
Blair was elected in 1973 to the Denver Board of Education, where he served for 12 years, including four years as the Board’s first Black president. During his time on the school board, Blair played a key role in bringing an end to segregation in Denver Public Schools.
Blair received numerous awards, including an award for his work in the state’s Equal Employment Opportunity program in 1975, an honorary doctorate from Metropolitan State College in 1984 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Business Social Responsibility Award in 2001.
In 2003, the city of Denver dedicated the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library to Blair and Elvin Caldwell, a longtime city councilman and manager of the city’s Department of Safety. In 2004, a charter school in Denver was named the Omar D. Blair School in honor of Blair’s dedication to public service and education.