James Beatton Blair was born in Port Augusta, South Australia in 1903. His ancestry included sea captains; his father was a labourer, goldminer and clerk. Jim was educated at Woodville District High School in Adelaide.
From 1920 until 1934, Jim pursued a career as an accountant with the Adelaide Steamship Company. He completed part-time the Diploma in Commerce at the University of Adelaide. These years also saw him spending a good deal of his spare time in writing. He was active in the Modern Pickwick Club, a men's literary and debating society. By 1934 he had had three short stories published in The Bulletin when the magazine invited him to join its staff. Immediately he became short story editor and editor of the Smoke-Oh section.
From 1932 to 1962 Jim had 56 short stories and essays published, mostly in The Bulletin. His stories are generally marked by humour and observations into human nature. Themes include science fiction, whimsical ideas and adventures of the Noyse family.
From 1936 to 1942 Jim was Editor of The Australian Woman's Mirror, the Bulletin's successful stable-mate. Among his innovations at the Mirror was the 1936 launching of a new weekly comic strip, The Phantom, into Australia from the U.S.A. -- the first appearance of this strip in Australia! In 1942 during World War II, he enlisted in the AIF and saw active service in the artillery in New Guinea until 1945.
Upon his 1945 return he transferred back to The Bulletin. From 1948 until the takeover of The Bulletin in 1960, he was Associate Editor and political and current affairs editor. He was prolific in writing leading articles, special articles and articles for the Plain English section. David Adams, the Editor, has said that Jim was skilful at reshaping critical commentary so as to give it a philosophical base.
Throughout his Bulletin career Jim also made very significant contributions to general-interest sections such as Society and Smoke-Oh, including humorous verse. Foremost among his various pseudonyms were Jasby, Uco and Findy.
From 1961 until his 1971 retirement, Jim was the research officer for the NSW Public Service Board. He was chief speech-writer for the Chairman of the PSB and also editor of the PBS's quarterly journal, Progress. Until well into retirement Jim continued part-time journalistic work, writing editorials for Albury's Border Morning Mail and editing special-interest journals including The Harbour, the N.S.W. Contract Reporter and The United Services Quarterly.
Jim had four books published. These included two collections of some of his short stories: Miss Pennycuick's Nightie (1941) and Pardon My Intrusion (1954). The other books were a humorous novel, No Train on Tuesday (1954), and a children's adventure story, The Secret of the Reef (1963). His books, like his individual stories, were published under the name "J.B. Blair." In an exception, Secret carried the name "Jim Blair" because it was for children. In 2007 a further book, Blown to Blazes and Other Works of J.B. Blair, was self-published by his son David. It contains the short stories by Jim, together with a sampling of his other works and some biographical material.
An able scholar, Jim was prominent in The National Radio Quiz around 1948-49, and was highly successful in Bob Dyer's radio quiz show Winner Take All in 1959. He particularly enjoyed intelligent conversation and telling stories. His interests included gardening, golf and especially genealogy.
Jim married Phyllis Stennett in 1936. He died in 1991, aged 87. They are survived by their four children David, Tony, Richard and Patricia.