Paul G. Blazer
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|Paul G. Blazer|
Blazer testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on June 23, 1939
|Born||Paul Garrett Blazer
September 19, 1890
New Boston, Illinois, United States
|Died||December 9, 1966 (age 76)
Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
|Resting place||Ashland Cemetery, Ashland, Kentucky, United States|
|Occupation||President and CEO of Ashland Inc.|
|Employer||Ashland, Inc., Ashland Oil and Refining Company, Inc, Swiss Oil Company|
|Known for||Founder (1924), President (1936–1944), & CEO (1944–1957) of Ashland Oil and Refining Company, Inc. / Ashland, Inc.; strong supporter of education, namesake of Paul G. Blazer High School|
|Spouse(s)||Georgia Monroe (April 1917)(1895–1991)|
|Children||Paul Garrett, Jr. Blazer (1919–1997)
Doris Virginia Webb (1923-2017)
Stuart Monroe Blazer (1927–1952, died in Korean War)
|Parent(s)||David N. and Mary Melinda Blazer|
|Relatives||Rexford S. Blazer (nephew)(1907–1974)|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Ashland Refining Company
- 3 Blazer and education in Kentucky
- 3.1 Ashland Junior College and The Blazer Education Fund (1936–1957)
- 3.2 Blazer recognition and awards (1946–1960)
- 3.3 Ashland Center of the University of Kentucky and Ashland Independent School Board's Naming Request (1957)
- 3.4 Closing The Blazer Education Fund and The High School Pool Recommendation (December 1959)
- 3.5 Blazer and Kentucky Educational Television (KET) (1965–1966)
- 4 The Stuart Blazer Foundation (1952–1975)
- 5 References
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
Paul G. Blazer was born on September 19, 1890, in the small Mississippi River town of New Boston, Illinois to Presbyterians (David Newton) D.N. Blazer and Mary Melinda Blazer (née Janes). Blazer's father's childhood home was station number three on the Underground Railroad that began at Quincy Illinois and was described as being on "the avenue to freedom in Canada for runaway slaves from Missouri and Kentucky and hundreds of them passing through to freedom were harbored at the Blazer home." Blazer's father, his father's brother and father's sister were school teachers. His father left the teaching profession as a school principal and soon thereafter became the publisher of the nearby Aledo Times-Record regional newspaper.
At the age of twelve, Blazer began selling magazine subscriptions for The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal, and his business was so successful that he eventually hired a full-time adult secretary. Blazer was a star on his high school football team and a track star in high school and in college. After high school, he enrolled at William & Vashti College in Aledo, Illinois, a school his family helped found. After one year of college, Blazer joined the Educational Division of Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia as manager of all its school subscriptions. His responsibilities included devising advertisements that ran in the Saturday Evening Post to attract recruits to sell subscriptions.
While in Philadelphia, Blazer became very active in the progressive Bull Moose Party and former President Theodore Roosevelt's unsuccessful campaign for the 1912 republican nomination for President (vs. the more conservative, incumbent Taft). Blazer ended up on the platform with President Roosevelt for his April 10 whistle-stop train tour stop in Philadelphia. Roosevelt overwhelmingly won Pennsylvania delegates with the campaign theme of improved treatment of employees by their corporate owners but he lost the nomination at the June, 1912 Republican National Convention in Chicago to William Howard Taft. Blazer left Curtis Publishing and Philadelphia in 1914 and returned to his magazine business in Illinois. On a Curtis Publishing scholarship, he enrolled at the University of Chicago earning an associate degree in Philosophy in 1915. The scholarship was conditional on maintaining four hundred magazine subscriptions. Blazer further expanded his subscription business with the 1914 purchase from a Curtis distributor in Chicago a renewal subscriptions business with 960 customers and another renewal subscription business in 1916 with 1900 customers further expanding his magazine business in Chicago and into Milwaukee. While attending University of Chicago, Blazer was the student coordinator for the student sports program and business manager of the Cap & Gown yearbook staff. Under his direction they achieved record income.
In 1917, during World War I, Blazer entered the 123rd U.S. Army Hospital Unit organized by the university but later that year an accident resulted in his receiving a medical discharge. He worked a short time for Chittenden Press in Chicago before going to The Great Northern Refining Co. as advertising manager. He quickly moved into the sales department and in 1918 became sales manager.
In April 1917, Blazer married Georgia Monroe, whom he had met at the University of Chicago. The Blazers had three children: Paul Garrett Jr., Doris Virginia, and Stuart Monroe. Georgia Blazer was active in her own right in promoting education in Kentucky. In 1939, Governor Happy Chandler appointed Mrs. Blazer the first woman trustee on the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees. She served from 1939 to 1960. In 1962, Blazer Hall was opened as the Georgia M Blazer Hall [dormitory] for Women in tribute to her twenty-one years of service as a University of Kentucky trustee. She also served on Kentucky's Council on Public Higher Education.
In 1920, Paul Blazer went to work as vice president of the Great Southern Oil & Refining Company in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1924 he joined the Swiss Oil Company of Lexington, in charge of constructing and managing the operations of Ashland Refining Co. in Ashland, Kentucky. Managing the company was more than a vocation for Blazer; from 1924 to 1957 he was regarded as head of the Ashland family.
In 1930, former congressman Fred M. Vinson moved his law practice from Louisa, Kentucky thirty miles north to Ashland. With aspirations to return to Washington D.C. as congressman, Vinson formed a circle of Ashland friends who could aid him politically and professionally. This group included his next door neighbor Paul G. Blazer. Vinson returned to Washington D.C as congressman in 1931. Vinson would become a frontline supporter of President Roosevelt and his cabinet's New Deal revolution.
In 1930, Blazer became Vice President of the newly established Independent Petroleum Association of America, a position he held for ten years. During Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first presidential term in the summer of 1933, J. Howard Marshall, a young assistant solicitor from Yale Law School working for Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, launched on a Code of Fair Competition for the Petroleum Industry. The oil industry sent representatives, including Blazer, to Washington D.C.. Blazer served as chairman of the United States Department of the Interior's Petroleum Code Survey Committee on Small Business Enterprise, referred to as the "Blazer Committee". (1933–1936). The committee focused on national petroleum pricing, production, refining, and a cost survey of crude oil production. The Board was abolished, effective March 31, 1936, by Executive Order 7076, June 15, 1935. It was succeeded by the Department of the Interior's Petroleum Conservation Division. January 11, 1935, Secretary Ickes appointed Blazer to the five-person committee to conduct a survey on the effect of the "Oil Code" on independent and small enterprises.
While working for the Department of Interior and with the support of many back in Ashland including US Congressman and collegiate athlete Fred M. Vinson, Blazer lobbied the Department of Interior's New Deal agency the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for Kentucky projects, including Ashland's new sewers, new public library and a concrete athletic stadium.
By 1939, Blazer had testified before the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representative on several occasions; and received appointments to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States' standing committees on "regulation of competition" and on "natural resources problems". He also served on the National Petroleum Association's Board of Trustees.
Blazer later became a charter member of the Petroleum Industry Council for National Defense. While Franklin Delano Roosevelt was giving his Declaration of War speech before the joint session of the United States Congress in Washington D.C., Blazer was several blocks away in preparations for war meetings. After the 1941 outbreak of World War II and the United States imminent inclusion many members of the Council, including Blazer, went to work for the Petroleum Administration for War Council (PAW) as "dollar-a-year men" again under the Secretary of Interior Ickes, Director Ralph K. Davies and now Solicitor J. Howard Marshall. Its purpose: "...mobilize most effectively all resources and abilities of the petroleum industry to deal with the emergency conditions under which the industry must operate, and to provide a competent, responsible and representative body." July 11, 1941, Secretary Ickes appointed Blazer to District 2's General [oversight] Committee, the Supply and Distribution Committee and Chairman of the District 2 Refining Committee. He served from Council's official creation December 31, 1941 to its dissolution December 6, 1946. During this period the Department of Interior disbursements for the construction of aviation gasoline facilities amounted to $235,836,850.80, which included the 1942 $6,000,000 expansion of the Catlettsburg refinery.
J. Howard Marshall would join the "Ashland Family" as Vice Chairman and President of the company from 1944 to 1952. The Ashland Oil and Refinery Company purchased the expansion unit (refinery #2) from the Department of Interior's War Assets Administration in 1947. Blazer was given a phone from Adolf Hitler's bunker after the war by Marshall, who had been loaned by Blazer to the Committee on Reparations at the request of Roosevelt. The phone is on display at the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.
Blazer was on Kentucky Governor Simeon S. Willis' WWII Postwar Planning Commission and he was the Chairman of the Transportation Committee. He later served as Chairman of the unsuccessful state legislative mandated Campaign for a Kentucky Constitutional Convention (1946–1947).
Blazer was a director and member of the American Petroleum Institute and a member of the National Petroleum Council. He served as a director the Cincinnati Branch Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (1945–1950) and served two years as chairman (1949 and 1950).
The National Petroleum Council (US) was established in 1946 at the request of President Harry S. Truman to represent industry views on Department of Interior matters relating to oil and natural gas. Blazer served on the council from 1946 to 1957.
Blazer was an invited member of the Newcomen Society of the United States and gave the keynote address at its Lexington Kentucky conference in 1956. The Newcomer Society's mission is "the study and recognition of achievement in American business and the society it serves."
Blazer kept Ashland Oil and Refining Company active in the Ohio Valley Improvement Association (OVIA) which was located in the Cincinnati Federal Reserve Bank Building. Ashland President J. Howard Marshall served on the Board of Trustees in the 1940s and Ashland Vice President William J Hull served as Chairman of the OVIA Legislative Committee in the 1950s and 1960s.
Through the OVIA and Ashland Oil & Refining Company and with the congressional leadership and dedication of Congressman Michael J. Kirwan (Ohio's 19th congressional district), Blazer and Hull were among those instrumental in bringing about the Department of Interior's and the United States Army Corps of Engineers' 1953 $200,000,000 Ohio River Navigation Modernization Program, the first such projects since 1929. The projects approved construction of nineteen new dual locks and high-lift dams (current list of locks and dams of the Ohio River). The Program contained eight new projects in the portion of the Ohio River owned by Kentucky, and contained the rare structural plans for a bridge over the top of the Greenup County, Kentucky dam. The Greenup Dam is just down river from Ashland was known at the time as The Paul G. Blazer Dam, received site priority and was built in the 1950s without completion of the bridge top. The top was completed and dedicated as the Jesse Stuart Memorial Bridge in the 1980s.
Blazer appeared before the U.S. Congress on several occasions testifying on proposed regulations affecting the oil industry and in 1956 testified against a proposed tax on use of the nation's waterways. Blazer, at age seventy, was elected chairman and president of the newly established National Waterways Conference in 1960 and re-elected as Chairman in 1961. The National Waterways Conference is the only national organization to advocate in favor of national policy and federal laws that recognize the vital importance of America's water resources infrastructure to our nation's well-being and quality of life.
In 1964, Blazer became the thirty-fourth inductee of the Oil Hall of Fame by the National Petroleum News (NPN) magazine. "Candidates are honored for their contributions to industry progress and their influence on the course of marketing." In the NPN interview, at the age of 74, Blazer closed with the comment "I still consider myself a marketer and salesman."
In reply to Kentucky Congressman William Huston Natcher's September 15, 1964 congratulatory letter, Blazer wrote: "This recognition, of course, belongs more to the Ashland Oil organization than to me personally".
Ashland Refining Company
In October 1923, J. Fred Miles of the Swiss Oil Company of Lexington, Kentucky. hired Paul G. Blazer to locate, purchase and be general manager of a refinery in eastern Kentucky. Keeping in mind the transportation advantages of access to the Ohio River, a refinery built in 1916 in northeastern Kentucky, where the Big Sandy River joins the Ohio River was selected. With funds supplied by Swiss Oil, Blazer arranged to buy, at a price of $212,500, the little 1,000 barrel per day refinery of Great Eastern Refining Company which had been owned by coal operators out of Huntington, West Virginia. The venture of these coal people into oil refining had proved unprofitable and they were glad to sell their refinery, including a small towboat and oil barge.
On February 2, 1924, Blazer and three Swiss Oil executives incorporated Ashland Refining Company, with a paid in capital of $250,000. They took over the operations of the Catlettsburg Refinery which had twenty-five employees who were working seven days per week and twelve hours per day. Blazer moved from Lexington to Ashland. The only member of the Swiss Oil organization to come to Ashland with Blazer was Ashland Refining Company's first treasurer, William Waples.
Refinery operations were successful from the very first month. Wages were increased and the hours of work were reduced. After making repairs and purchasing some new equipment, the refinery soon had output of 500,000 barrels a year and sales of $1,300,000. Within a few years, Ashland Refining Company, the small subsidiary of Swiss Oil formed solely to facilitate the purchase of some eastern Kentucky oil producing properties, began showing larger earnings than the parent company.
Ashland Refining Co. grew rapidly through both internal expansion and acquisitions including Union Gas and Oil Company (1925), Tri-State Refining Company (1930), and Cumberland Pipeline Company (1931).
By 1933, Ashland Refining Company owned more than 1,000 wells, 800 miles of pipelines, bulk distribution plants in twelve cities, service stations, river transportation terminals and river equipment. In 1936, under Blazer's leadership the Company ownership changed from Swiss Oil to the Ashland Oil and Refining Company shareholder group in Ashland, Kentucky. Blazer was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company.
Blazer's success as manager was recognized by major stock holders. They gave him the power to run Ashland as his own operation, though at no point during his tenure as Chief Executive Officer (1936–1957) did he own a controlling interest in the company.
Two of his early changes were offering employees sick leave with full pay and in 1947 the introduction of an employee profit-sharing plan, which made Ashland Oil and Refining Company one of the first companies in the region to offer such benefits. Blazer also started the well known tradition of having local Greenup County educator and internationally acclaimed author Jesse Stuart open each annual meeting with a story, a poem, or a bit of humor.
After World War II, Ashland teamed with Sperry Corporation to develop the introduction of radar on commercial river vessels and teamed with various shipyards to develop the integrated tow. The "jumbo" tank barge of 195 ft. by 35 ft. became the industry standard. Ashland was growing from a small Eastern Kentucky refinery into a Forbes 500 company by relying on barges to bring in crude oil and deliver refined products to independent marketers. In the process, Ashland soon operated the nation's largest inland towing fleet and in 1953 the Port of Huntington-Tristate exceeded Pittsburgh as the busiest port on the Ohio River.
Following World War II, Ashland Oil & Refining Company acquired Allied Oil Company (1948), Cleveland and Lakeland Tankers (1948), Aetna Oil Company (1949), Freedom-Valvoline Company (1950), Frontier Oil of Buffalo (1950) and National Refining Company (1950).
By 1953, Ashland Oil and Refining Company had 3,518 miles of crude oil pipelines, 252 miles of product lines, six refineries processing an average of 124,000 barrels a day, operated nine tow boats on the inland waterways, and owned over 100 barges.
Although still involved as Chairman of Ashland's Finance Committee and Executive Committee, Blazer stepped down as Chief Executive Officer in 1957.
Louisville Refining Company was purchased in 1959. United Carbon was purchased in 1963.
At the time of Blazer's passing in 1966, Ashland Oil and Refinery Company Inc.'s sales had grown to $699,000,000.
Blazer and education in Kentucky
Ashland Junior College and The Blazer Education Fund (1936–1957)
After Blazer and local attorney John T. Diederich worked on the 1936 expansion of Kentucky State tax legislation (KRS 165) for municipal colleges and the associated passage of Ashland's local school tax, the Ashland Board of Education established the Ashland Junior College in the fall of 1938. Although not the first junior college in Kentucky (Paducah 1932), Ashland was the first and only municipality to take advantage of the expanded tax legislation.
In support of the Ashland School Board's effort to use the tax to establish a community junior college, Paul and Georgia Blazer created The Blazer Educational Fund with a gift of Ashland Oil and Refining Company stock in the fall of 1938. The fund's trustees were Blazer's spouse Mrs. Georgia Monroe Blazer, James T Norris owner of the Ashland Daily Independent newspaper (The Independent (Ashland)), and later Superintendent W. C. Shattles of Ashland Independent School District. The fund provided loans to students to attend the new Ashland Junior College. Much of the interest and many of the loans were later forgiven with an additional contribution of company stock to the fund from the Blazers. Records for 130 recipients still exist. According to a still living 1950's recipient: she was directed from the registration office to walk one block up from the Ashland Junior College's building at 15th & Central to the Blazer's Bath Avenue residence, she was invited into the house by Mrs. Blazer to share her ambition and to receive a check for the needed tuition. The recipient paid the loan back from her first paychecks from the gas company. The fund check book, with signed blank checks by Georgia, was kept in the front hall chest of drawers should the funds be needed during a time the Blazers were not available. The last check was handed out at the front door of the Blazer residence in 1960. "In the event the Ashland Junior College be discontinued", the fund's governing document specifically stated the funds be used to benefit education in Ashland.
Blazer recognition and awards (1946–1960)
University of Kentucky, Lexington KY: 1948 recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award - Funded by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation and administered by the New York Southern Society, the awards stem from the Society's wish to establish a permanent reminder of the "noblest human qualities as expressed and followed in the life of its first president, Algernon Sydney Sullivan; and to do so in a manner which will perpetuate the influence of such a man, not so much as an individual but as a type." Further, "in the selection of the recipients nothing shall be considered except the possession of such characteristics of heart, mind, and conduct as evince a spirit of love for helpfulness to other men and women." The prestigious awards are given only by selected "representative institutions." After the New York Southern Society closed its doors, the awards were continued by the Sullivan Foundation and grew to include more and more institutions throughout the South. The University of Kentucky has been recognizing Sullivan Award winners since 1927.
Centre College, Danville KY: Honorary degree (1950); and in 1953, Blazer filled the vacancy on the Centre College Board of Trustees caused by the death of his longtime friend Chief Justice (Frederick) Fred M. Vinson, of the U.S. Supreme Court. Vinson and his wife Roberta had been the Blazers' next door neighbors on Central Parkway in Ashland. While Vinson was residing in Washington as a U.S. Congressman representing northeastern Kentucky in the 1930s and a Washington D.C. Circuit Judge in the early 1940s, the Vinsons were welcoming Washington D.C. residents during the Blazers' extended stays when Blazer was working with the Department of Interior. Vinson and Blazer were life members of The Filson Club, a Kentucky historical society located in Louisville, Kentucky.
Other recognitions included: the alumni citation of Useful Citizen (public service) by the University of Chicago in 1949 for his leadership in the call for Kentucky's Constitutional Convention, – an honorary degree from the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY in 1952 –- The Kentucky Citation for "distinguished service in the field of Business and Scholarships in Higher Education" from Transylvania College (Transylvania University) in 1954—Kentucky Press Association's 1954 "Kentuckian of the Year", referred to as "a strong supporter of education" –- Citation of Honor for "his outstanding contributions to mankind" from Indiana Technical College (Indiana Institute of Technology) presented at the dedication of the Dana Science Building in 1958 -– Honorary Degrees from Marshall University, Huntington WV in 1958, Pikeville College, Pikeville KY in 1959 and Wilberforce College, Xenia/Wilberforce OH presented at the dedication of the Margaret Ireland Dormitory for Women in 1962. Blazer served on The American Sunday School Union board of "Honorary Vice-Presidents" until his death in 1966. Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee dedicated Jesse Stuart's lifetime bibliography to Blazer as "Benefactor of Education and a Friend and Admirer of Jesse Stuart" in 1960., and Kentucky State College in Frankfort, KY dedicated The Paul G. Blazer Library on March 6, 1960.
Influenced by his family's abolitionist heritage and in his relationship with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson on the social importance of racial integration in education, the Kentucky State College library was Blazer's first acceptance of a public naming request. Chief Justice Fred Vinson died of a heart attack in September 1953 eight months before the May 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating segregation in public schools. Blazer's personal contributions to Kentucky State College initiated the student loan fund in 1950 and his May 29, 1960 Kentucky State College commencement address on integration and educational advancement was recorded in the June 28, 1960 United States Congressional Record.
Ashland Center of the University of Kentucky and Ashland Independent School Board's Naming Request (1957)
In 1957 Blazer again played a significant role in the Ashland area's higher education opportunities with his work towards the University of Kentucky taking over the teaching and day-to-day operations from the Ashland Independent School District's Board of Education for the Ashland Junior College. Correspondence between Blazer and the University of Kentucky are located in the Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY. According to local attorney Henderson Dysard (deceased), the final meeting was Blazer and Dysard before the University of Kentucky Trustees in Lexington. Dysard frequently shared his story as such: as they walked up the steps of the university he asked Blazer of the probable outcome of the meeting. The answer to the young attorney "Oh Henderson, do not enter such a meeting as this without knowing the outcome beforehand." The outcome was that Ashland Independent School District's Ashland Junior College became the Ashland Center of the University of Kentucky (1957–1964). Although not the first University of Kentucky extension campus (Covington 1948), Ashland's model (1957) sparked the statewide expansion of the university's extension campuses (Fort Knox 1958, Cumberland and Henderson 1960, ...). In 1962, the state legislature formerly adopted the program, creating the University of Kentucky Community College System to be effective in 1964. The Ashland Center of the University of Kentucky became the Ashland Community College (ACC). In 2008, Kentucky's community colleges and technical colleges were unified creating the Kentucky Community and Technical College System KCTCS. Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC) now serves northeastern Kentucky and beyond.
Also in 1957, Claude Fannin, the Ashland Board of Education President, expressed the Ashland School Board's desire to name the new high school after Blazer. Blazer's reply to the 1957 request:
January 3, 1958
Although the thought was quite a shock to me, I felt greatly honored by the expressed desire of the members of the Ashland school Board to name the new high school for me.
After discussing the matter with Mrs. Blazer, Paul Jr. and Doris, I am honored to accept this very great honor which you have accorded to me and Mrs. Blazer. In that connection, I am sure that you, like others, are aware of her important contributions to our company and to the other activities associated with our name.
Again I desire to express my appreciation of the compliment you have implied to our family.
Cordially yours, Paul G. Blazer
The Prestonsburg, Kentucky bus disaster occurred February 28 barely two months after Blazer's acceptance of the Ashland School Board's request to name the new high school after him. Twenty-six school children and the bus driver died when a school bus plunged into the Big Sandy River outside of nearby Prestonsburg, KY. At the time, it was the deadliest bus accident in United States history. Twenty-two surviving children swam or were pulled to shore.
Closing The Blazer Education Fund and The High School Pool Recommendation (December 1959)
The Blazer Education Fund continued to make funds available to students that had started their junior college education in 1957. In December 1959, in anticipation of the last Blazer Education Fund student check being written and in compliance with the 1938 fund documents as to the discontinuation of the Ashland Board of Education's Ashland Junior College, trustees Shattles, Norris and Mrs. Blazer submitted to the Boyd County Court the recommendation to use $57,000 in excess funds for physical education at the new high school. During this period, the discussion of a pool for the new high school came up with the goal that "every child in the community would have an opportunity to learn to swim". With more funds needed, note of the additional funds of $50,000 from the Stuart Blazer Foundation (created in 1952 in memorial of their son who was killed serving his our country in the Korean War) was included as $50,000 from each fund for a total of $100,000 in the termination notification letter to the Ashland Board of Education dated December 1, 1959.
Blazer and Kentucky Educational Television (KET) (1965–1966)
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Three years after the 1962 dedication of the Paul G. Blazer High School, referred to as Ashland Blazer, the team of Blazer (now 75 years old) and Superintendent Shattles was again championing the education of Ashland area youth. The following are excerpts from the book The KET Story by O. Leonard Press, the passion and leader behind the development of Kentucky Educational Television:
In September 1965, I got a call from Lucile Blazer, chair of the Eastern Kentucky Area ETV Council, which was centered in Ashland. She told me that her uncle, Paul Blazer, Sr., the CEO of Ashland Oil Co. was very angry because WSAZ-TV in Huntington, West Virginia had just cancelled Patterns In Arithmetic.
Patterns in Arithmetic was a course in the "new math" endorsed by the National Science Foundation and produced for television by the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Ashland Oil was underwriting the cost of renting the series. ... Ashland School Superintendent W.C. Shattles had initiated the local inclusion of a consortium of school districts... It was a cooperative venture involving the Authority, Dr. Harry Sparks and the Department of Education.
More than 600 students in the Ashland schools were enrolled. Eight other Kentucky school systems within range of WSAZ-TV, which was donating the time as a public service, were using the course also, all the way to Jenkins in the south and Carter County to the west. A total of close to 3000 fifth graders were enrolled. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Sparks, had helped participating schools find federal matching funds with which to buy TV sets.
The series was inaugurated on WSAZ-TV on January 26, 1965. Yet here it was, barely eight months later, the beginning of the new school year, and the station cancelled. A great many schools within range of WSAZ-TV's signal had purchased TV equipment just to receive this program. A lot of people were very upset. Paul Blazer meant to do something about it. This was his home territory. These were the children of his company's families who were being trifled with.
He wanted to know, Lucile said, if $50,000 would make it possible for us to build a station or stations to cover the same area WSAZ-TV covered. Ron Stewart, who talked with Lucile before I reached her, told her truthfully that $50,000 would not go very far.
When I called her, she told me Paul had raised his offer to $50,000 a year. Would that do it? If necessary, she was authorized to say, he could raise that to $75,000 a year.
I suggested it would take a lot less than $75,000 to buy the sites for the entire state network. Once we had the sites, I explained, I was sure the network would be built, including an already projected transmitter in Ashland. And, I went on, the Authority, i.e. the state, would not only pay for the new math, it would offer an entire instructional television schedule for every school in the state. Blazer, Lucile said, wanted to go ahead – but! But he just wanted three stations that would cover the areas he was interested in, Eastern Kentucky, Southeastern Ohio and Southwestern West Virginia.
Paul called me also and we had a good conversation during which I again tried to make my case for an integrated system. But he was still fixated on building something for just the area Ashland Oil considered its home territory. While every letter the Governor received was important, none was quite as decisively so as this one.
November 29, 1965.
I am gratified to learn that you are interested in this program which appears to me to have tremendous potentialities. Many of the teachers, especially in the grade schools of Eastern Kentucky, are not adequately equipped and need as much aid as can be made available.
I have little firsthand information concerning the plans which I assume are being developed. I have been advised that, at a cost of approximately $30,000, the transmitter sites necessary to blanket the state can be obtained. I have indicated tentatively that, if it would expedite the program, I would provide the funds for the securing of options on the sites at reasonable costs, these to be exercised at my expense including the required title work by competent lawyers. Such a plan, involving purchase of the sites as soon as the other funds are assured, should speed up the program and possibly assist you in obtaining the necessary appropriation from the Legislature and assurance of Federal funds. I have been advised that my contribution to this program would amount to approximately $30, 000. I assume that I could obtain the title work more quickly and at lower expense than if handled through conventional State channels. I am thinking of using McDonald, Alford & Roszell of Lexington, who specialize in title work, although I have not discussed this with them.
It is my preference that no publicity be given to my proposal. I have been in contact, however, through Mrs. Lucile Blazer, who is very much interested in this matter, with Leonard Press.
For your information, we had what appeared to be a very successful educational TV program pertaining to the new mathematics which was broadcast last year through WSAZ. The necessary tape recordings were supplied to the station and TV sets were furnished to quite a number of schools in Eastern Kentucky. The teachers were most cooperative. Unfortunately, WSAZ could not make the time available this season.
Cordially yours, Paul G. Blazer
The Governor signed the budget bill on January 14, 1966. The bill contained an annual allocation of $359,000 for the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television. That meant that construction would occupy the next two years, assuming Blazer's offer were accepted.
So the network's earliest possible on-air starting date was now fixed: it could be the fall of 1968. Until the station sites belonged to the state, FCC applications would not be acted on and federal matching funds would go to other states that were ready to use them. I wrote to Joe Bell in the Governor's office on January 14, 1966, urging that he request the Governor to answer Blazer's letter of November 29, 1965. I pointed out again that we could not get any action on our applications to United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) for what was now potentially two million dollars in matching funds (one million from HEW and a matching one million from Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)) until we had ownership of the transmitter sites.
A not inconsiderable element of that urgency was that Blazer was seriously ill and he was planning to leave for Arizona any day now to get out of the cold.
Lucile called on February 24, 1966. She told me that the Governor had called Paul. I repeated that what we really needed was for the sites to be secured by a private party so that they could then be transferred to the state with a minimum of paper work and in the least possible time. Paul, she said, was seriously ill and might be unable to act. She said if this situation continues - and she appreciates our urgency - she'd get together with friends and raise the money to buy the sites. Hating to look this gift horse in the mouth, I still had to apprise her of our need for an expert to actually buy the land, since the money alone, if it had to be spent by and through the state, would put us back in the same old pickle. [Ashland Oil and refining Company's Fred Nall went to work acquiring the land.]
[In the end] I got a call from Paul Blazer. He wondered how much we had committed of the money he had made available to us. I told him about $15,000, which surprised him greatly. Nall had done a good job, I told him, and had managed to get a number of the thirteen statewide sites donated.
We exchanged compliments on Nall and then Blazer, President and godfather of Ashland Oil, said with simple sincerity, "It was good of Ashland Oil to lend Nall to us."
The short answer is that Paul's intercession enabled the network plans to proceed even though, for Paul, the entire purpose was to find a way to bring the benefits of educational television to the schools in Ashland.
Blazer died a few months later on December 9, 1966, at the age of 76.
In the November 20, 1967 edition of the Louisville Courier Journal reporter James Doussard reported "TV Dream Comes Alive on Cold Ashland Hill" and wrote: "[Len] Press explained why Ashland rather than one of the other 11 transmitters throughout Kentucky had been chosen for this official groundbreaking (on the actual site; the others were done 'in town'). He called this community of 32,000 people the "cradle of network" and explained what the [fifty people] in attendance already knew – that Ashland was the first community to give a site for a transmitting station, that some of its leading citizens indeed were in the vanguard that took what was once a dream and advanced it to a dirt, concrete and steel reality".
The Stuart Blazer Foundation (1952–1975)
After twenty plus years of Ashland area grants, the Stuart Blazer Foundation was terminated in the 1970s. On the recommendation of Paul and Georgia's son Paul Jr. and daughter Doris, one half of the remaining funds paid for the initial restoration of the Paramount Movie Theater (Paramount Arts Center) Ashland KY (associated with Paul Jr.) and one half of the remaining funds paid for the building and one year's operation of The Ashland [public] Tennis Center before being given to the City of Ashland (associated with Doris).
The Blazer family funded the Blazer Lecture Series at the University of Kentucky in memory of their son Stuart.
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- "History of KET Origins: O. Leonard Press and the Creation of KET "Hitting the Road"".
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- Blazer, D. N.. (October 20, 1922). History of The Underground Railroad of McDonough County, Illinois. Aledo, Illinois: The Times Record Company.
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- St. Clair, James E.; Gugin, Linda C. (2002). Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky – A Political Biography. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2247-3.
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