Local news

Longtime KHQ executive J. Birney Blair dies

In 1969 a news team from NBC visited the Spokane area to deliver a panel discussion at Whitworth College.  The discussion was
In 1969 a news team from NBC visited the Spokane area to deliver a panel discussion at Whitworth College. The discussion was "The first hundred days of Richard Nixon as President". Left to right are Irving R. Levine, John Chancellor, Pauline Frederick, R.O. Dick Dunning, president of KHQ-TV the NBC affiliate, J. Birney Blair, vice-president of KHQ, Liz Trotta, Carl Stern and Frank Bourghotzer. (Photo submitted by J. Birney Blair)

The longtime president and general manager of KHQ, J. Birney Blair, died in his Spokane home on Saturday. He was 92.

Blair started working at KHQ as a radio reporter after he retired from the military, said his widow, Marcy Blair.

A lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, he served in both England and Korea.

As the station transitioned into television, Blair became KHQ’s first sales manager in 1952.

In 1970, he was named the station’s president and general manager, holding the position for 18 years before retiring in 1988.

During that time, he served two terms as president of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters.

Following his retirement in 1988, he continued as a member of the company’s board of directors.

In 1991, he was a recipient of the WSAB Broadcaster of the Year Award.

Patricia McRae, the current KHQ general manager, said that until the day of his passing, he was as bright as ever.

She commended him for his work in helping KHQ evolve as technology changed.

“I think he brought us into today’s technology,” McRae said.

“He was always very proactive about the TV industry. Whatever change we faced ahead of us, he was always right there.”

KHQ is owned by Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Marcy Blair said her late husband enjoyed every minute of his job.

“I can never remember a day where he said, ‘I don’t want to go to work today,’ ” she said. “He loved his work.”

Outside of work, Marcy Blair said, her husband had a passion for the symphony, and he enjoyed playing golf and fishing.

She said he was most proud of his daughter, Pamela Hopp, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on June 28 at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, with a reception to follow at Manito Park.

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