Remembering Michigan's 'Civil War governor' who led a push for human rights

 Austin Blair was Michigan's 13th governor.
Austin Blair was Michigan's 13th governor. (WJRT)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 11:56 AM EDT
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(6/23/2020) - As the calls grow to take down Confederate statues across the country, one of the most prominent statues at the Michigan State Capitol stands in honor of a governor at the forefront of human rights.

Gov. Austin Blair is known as Michigan's "Civil War governor." But history reveals, he was much more than that.

Scenes of protest and demonstrations have played out in front of the Michigan State Capitol building, as of late. Looking down on the crowds, a statue of Blair.

He was the 13th governor of Michigan from 1861 to 1864, during the height of the Civil War. Like President Abraham Lincoln, he was a member of the Republican Party.

Blair was a staunch supporter of the Union, personally raising about $100,000 to equip the 1st Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. But historians note, he will be remembered most for being a champion of human rights.

As a state representative, Blair was a key supporter in passing legislation in 1847 to outlaw capital punishment, making Michigan the first in the nation to do so.

Blair will also be remembered for being a staunch abolitionist, and fought the expansion of slavery in the U.S. He later led efforts to give women and black citizens the right to vote.

Blair died in 1894. The next year, in 1895, the Michigan Legislature directed a statue honoring Blair be placed on the east side of the Capitol building.

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