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Posted By: Volunteer
Date: 4/10/2023 at 10:04:38

We are deeply saddened by the news of Alma Blair’s passing this week. Alma was a legend throughout the Community of Christ and Restoration history community. He educated and impacted the lives of generations of Graceland University students while serving as history professor on the Lamoni campus for nearly four decades. Rather than taking time off between semesters, Alma traveled to Nauvoo each summer for over thirty years to train young adult interns at the Joseph Smith Historic Site. His passion for historical detail (whether it was reconstructing the Red Brick Store, restoring the Mansion House, or holding late-night discussions with students after class) worked to inspire future historians, curators, and life-long church history enthusiasts. Alma’s lessons in interpreting material culture and the historic context of the 19th century gave students a greater understanding and increased appreciation for both the past and the present Community of Christ. In 2016, the summer internship program at the Community of Christ historic sites was renamed the “Alma Blair Internship Program” in honor of Alma’s enduring legacy.

Alma’s impact on the Community of Christ historic sites was not limited to Nauvoo alone. He also served as the director of Liberty Hall, a Community of Christ historic site located in Lamoni, Iowa. This late 19th century home was near and dear to Alma’s heart as he dedicated endless hours to the restoration of Joseph Smith III’s historic home. Alma analyzed every floor board, wall, and window, searching for the stories that lay embedded in Liberty Hall’s historic fabric. Visitors young and old reveled in Alma’s gift for storytelling. When Alma stepped down from his position as site director, he continued on with the historic sites as an engaged volunteer and board member for the Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation.

To say that Alma has left a lasting impact on Community of Christ history and the historic sites is an understatement. Alma contributed courageously to the transformation of Community of Christ’s interpretation of the past and the professionalization of the historic sites. Through his influence as a history professor in the classroom as well as at the historic sites, students and visitors no longer heard a faith promoting perspective of the past. Alma was literally the voice of church history as he narrated, “Nauvoo: Perception of a Past,” a movie written and produced by the RLDS Church History Commission and released in 1972-1980. Alma was passionate about historical accuracy and set a high bar for his students. Meeting his expectations for historical detail induced anxiety amongst generations of summer interns and Graceland students long after they departed the classroom. Alma didn’t shy away from the shadows and blemishes of church history, rather he faced them head on and encouraged his students to learn from the mistakes of the past. He felt that by acknowledging these flaws, we can create a better world and a better faith community for today and the future. Alma was a founding member of the John Whitmer Historical Association and served in a variety of leadership roles within the Mormon History Association and the John Whitmer Historical Association.

Our hearts break with the news of Alma’s passing, but his legacy and passion for preserving the past lives on in the generations of students, summer interns, and historic site visitors who had the privilege to know him, learn from him, and serve by his side. We are comforted with the knowledge that Alma is now reunited with the love of his life, Kathryn “Kay” Tabor Blair, his wife of over 60 years. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Blair family during this time of loss.

Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation


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