News

Former Falls Church Mayor Louis Blair Dies At Age 81

LOUIS BLAIR

Former City of Falls Church Mayor Louis Helion Blair died on Sept. 5 at age 81 at his home in Rockbridge Baths in southwest Virginia, according to a report in Friday’s Roanoke Times.

Blair served on the Falls Church City Council from 1969 – 1974 and was the mayor of the City from 1971 – 1974.   

A graduate of the University of Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in engineering, he was senior staff member of the Urban Institute when he ran and won a seat on the F.C. Council, being elevated by the Council to mayor after two years.   

He was a 36-year survivor of Stage 4 throat cancer, but his death was attributed to pneumonia contracted from a kayaking trip on the Maury River.   

Blair was a retired visiting professor at Virginia Military Institute; former mayor of Falls Church, Va. following 17 years as director of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation

Blair was born in Richmond on February 9, 1939. His mother, Jean Blair Helion, was from a prominent Richmond family. His father was Jean Helion, a leading French abstract painter of the 1930s. His father returned to France, and his mother died when he was five, leaving him essentially orphaned.   

According to the Roanoke Times obiturary published Friday, in a private reflection written in 2018, Blair wrote that he was shaped by two women: first, his Great-Aunt Jean, who became his formidable caretaker when he was five; the other his wife, Suzanne Sessoms Lemon Blair, who brought him “unquestioning love” and taught him to share the same with others after they married in 1982.

“Suzanne, he said in a 2009 interview, was central to his life and ‘the wind beneath my wings.’ In the same interview he explained he relished helping people find a way to change their lives. ‘If you’ve helped one person outside your family, you’ve made a difference.’   

Though Blair grew up in rather impoverished circumstances, a “proverbial rich uncle” sent him to the University of Virginia. After college and a master’s degree in engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he moved to Washington, where his jobs included staff positions in the Senate and White House. In 1971 he was elected Falls Church mayor after knocking on every door in the city.”