Frank Blair Jr. was born February 19, 1821, in Lexington, Kentucky. He came from a distinguished Scotch Irish background. His grandfather was the attorney general of Kentucky. His father, Francis Sr., was county clerk for Franklin County and eventually ran the Globe newspaper in Washington, D.C., where he became a close friend of President Andrew Jackson. Frank Blair Jr. eventually graduated from Princeton University and joined his brother Montgomery in the legal profession in St. Louis in 1842. Frank would become deeply involved in politics in Missouri, doing all he could to support a family friend, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, in his fight against the Whig Party.
Civil War and After
As the Civil War began to loom, Frank Blair Jr. became the center of the emerging Republican Party in Missouri. Although not opposed to slavery where it existed, he saw its expansion as a hindrance to economic growth. During the election of 1860, he organized the Wide Awakes, a group dedicated to Abraham Lincoln’s campaign. The Wide Awakes often served as protection for pro-Lincoln speakers during the turbulent campaign. After Lincoln was elected, and the secession of the Southern states, Blair took on the task of organizing the pro-Union forces in opposition to the Missouri Minute Men. He created the Committee of Safety—made up of prominent Union men in St. Louis—and organized men mostly from the German community into militia units called home guards. These units would be integral in saving St. Louis’s arsenal and in taking Camp Jackson.
After the Camp Jackson affair, Frank Blair Jr. was instrumental in the removal of Gen. Harney from command of the Department of the West and for the promotion of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. In addition, after John C. Frémont’s defeat at Lexington, Blair played an important role in removing him from command. He accomplished this in part with political clout gained from family ties. His brother was serving as postmaster general for President Lincoln.
Frank Blair Jr. served honorably as a colonel in the Union army, where he fought alongside Ulysses S. Grant in the struggle for Vicksburg. After the war, he would serve as a U.S. senator for Missouri from 1871 to 1873. While incredibly popular for his war service, he would lose credibility for his opposition to Radical Republican rule, eventually joining the Democratic Party and running for vice president in 1868 with Horatio Seymour. Frank Blair Jr. died in July 1875 and is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.