Nelda Blair’s success story is one of true grit. Raised in a humble family, she was the first to attend college and became a successful lawyer who has also made numerous contributions to her community.
“Education is the key to whatever kind of life people want to have whether it’s money, influence or making a better life for your family,” Blair said.
A lifelong Montgomery County resident, Blair is also a fifth-generation Texan on both sides of her family. She has seen tremendous change in the county throughout her lifetime—Blair graduated from Conroe High School when it was the only high school in the district and The Woodlands was in its infancy.
“When I was in high school, there may have been only a couple homes here,” she said. “It was known then as Mitchell’s Folly, and [founder George Mitchell]was building what was going to be a planned community in the middle of a sawmill area.”
Blair had already graduated from law school at Baylor University and was working as a lawyer when she moved to The Woodlands 25 years ago after marrying her husband, Jim.
“He lived in the Galleria area and I lived on Lake Conroe,” she said. “I was willing to come to the county line, but no farther.”
Blair’s father was her political role model and the reason she had an interest in politics from a young age.
“I had to sit on the bus alone back in grade school because we were the only house on the block with a [Barry] Goldwater sign on it,” she said. “I held my first political sign on a street corner when I was 10. I got the bug then, and it never went away.”
Blair was appointed to a position on the Town Center Improvement District in 1996 and then elected to the township’s board of directors when it was established in 2007. Although she chose not to seek re-election in 2013, Blair has numerous memories from her more than 15 years as an elected official. One of the most memorable developments, she said, was the transformation of The Woodlands from a bedroom community to a destination.
“We were laughed at—especially by people in Houston—who said, ‘We’ll come to The Woodlands to sleep at night, but we’ll never come there for conventions or for vacation,’” she said. “When you believe in something enough and know you can make it happen, and you have the partnerships like we have in this community, then it does happen.”
Through her political and law connections, Blair has been asked to serve as a regent for two boards for Texas universities. She was appointed to the board of regents for Stephen F. Austin State University in 2015 after six years of service as a regent for the University of Houston, the appointment furthering her love for the color red.
“When I got appointed to UH, they were just lucky I had a closet full of red,” Blair said. “My mother has a photo of me at 6 years old where I’m standing on a stage and I am out front holding a microphone and speaking loudly wearing a red cowboy skirt. I haven’t changed a bit since then.”
During her time as a UH regent, Blair was part of the board that hired Chancellor Renu Khator and opened the new state-of-the-art football stadium on campus, which was no easy feat, she said.
“It was originally designed so that it did not face downtown,” Blair said. “It had to be turned slightly in order to do that, and you would be amazed at how much that cost. We had to go out and raise more private money and justify why we were doing that, but you go into that stadium now, it’s no small deal. UH is one of the crown jewels of the city of Houston, and being able to equate the city when you’re sitting in the stadium is worth much more than I can state.”
While Blair is well-known in Montgomery County, she said a lot of people do not know she came from humble origins.
“I was the oldest of 14 grandkids and the first to go to college; we were not an educated family,” she said. “People assume that when you live in a big house, have a law office and wear decent clothes that you’ve always done that.”
Although Blair said she does not plan to run for another elected office, she does hope to stay involved in the political spectrum.
“Your plans aren’t always God’s plans,” she said. “I believe what’s in store for me is helping good people run for office and not necessarily being a candidate again myself.”
She is also in the process of writing three books and said she would love to bring more inspiration to young people who are the first in their family to go to college.
“I think my job here on Earth is not to be famous or well-off but to do good,” Blair said. “I use those words a lot, and that’s what I strive to do. Every Monday is a new opportunity to do good.”