Alexander Blair was born in 1925 in Macon, Georgia. His mother, Dorothy Holden Blair, was a teacher, librarian and church organist. His father, Alexander Blair IV, was a structural engineer. Alec was the oldest of three and remained close to his brother Frank throughout his life. His youngest brother, Berrian, died of polio as a child.
At age 5, the family moved to Brooklyn, where he watched his father design part of the New York City subway system. During the depression, the family returned to Georgia to live with extended family. After high school, Alec earned his electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech and then taught as an instructor in the math department. Alec then became a radio officer in the United States Merchant Marine and joined his brother Frank, a seaman, on a ship, where they sailed together to distant shores.
Alec pursued a graduate degree in mathematics at Harvard and studied for a year at the University of Zurich. He spent summers working as a mathematician at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Along the way, he discovered a calling to ordained ministry. He attended the Episcopal Theological Seminary (ETS) in Cambridge, MA for his first two years and then transferred to the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley.
While at ETS, Alec worked as a seminarian at St. Mark’s Dorchester in Boston and became close friends with Mabel and Allan (Mac) MacDonald. Mabel introduced Alec to their daughter Joan MacDonald, who was home visiting from college. After a whirlwind courtship, Alec and Joan married in Boston and then drove to Berkeley for his final year of seminary.
Alec was ordained in 1957. He had fruitful ministries in the Diocese of the Rio Grande for 20 years. When their first child was a few months old, the family moved to Costa Rica for a half-year, where Joan and Alec studied Spanish during the week and worked in Caribbean congregations on weekends. Alec served as rector of St. John’s Alamogordo, where he and Joan had three additional children. In 1970, Alec accepted a call to lead the Episcopal Canterbury Center at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Alec and Joan supported student-led civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activism on campus. Alec and Joan nurtured this generation, as it developed from student rebels into teachers, counselors, artists, and nurses, working on behalf of under-served communities in New Mexico and beyond.
In their free time, Alec and Joan bought some beautiful land at 9000 feet elevation next to a national forest near Cloudcroft. Alec drew up the plans for a stunning house, with floor-to-ceiling windows. With a little help from their friends, Alec and Joan built their house.
In 1977, Alec began work toward his PhD in systematic theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He developed a framework, based on the Hebrew Bible, the earliest Christian texts, and Liberation Theology, to state what he had learned throughout his ministry: God calls each of us to generative creativity, manifest in loving relationship with others. He published his dissertation as Christian Ambivalence toward its Old Testament: Interactive Community versus Static Obedience (Wipf & Stock 2011).
Alec’s family found a church home at All Souls Parish, Berkeley. In an ongoing vocation, Alec was a member of the faculty of the School for Deacons for many years. From 1988 to 1993, Alec also served as Vicar of St. Albans in Brentwood, near the school where Joan taught first grade.
Throughout all these years, music was a central avocation. Alec sang with the Baroque Choral Guild in Berkeley. At home, he played keyboard in a baroque quartet with his children on strings and studied organ. Alec and Joan sang in church choirs, and they attended gigs performed by their son Peter, a drummer in a metal band.
After a brief period under the care of hospice at home, Alec died on June 25, 2020. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family. He was 95 years old.
In Alec and Joan’s view, the most creative adventure of all was raising their family. The family community includes four children, Mary, Anne, John, and Peter, their children’s spouses, and their six grandchildren -- Carla, David, Luana, Louis, Madeline, and Josie. Each of these individuals carries on Alec’s spirit.
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