(Sept. 27, 1909-June 6, 1978). Born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, Blackburn came to Indianapolis in 1932 to attend. After graduating from Butler’s school of religion, he became an ordained minister in the ). Blackburn then earned an M.A. in sociology at Fisk University, and he worked as director of research and records at Tuskegee Institute.
Blackburn returned to Indianapolis in 1936 as executive director of, a social service center for the local Black community. During his 40-year tenure, he worked to expand budgets, facilities, and programming to provide jobs, housing, and health services to the urban poor. He developed several unique self-help programs including Flanner House Homes, which became a national model for providing local and federal funding to help veterans build their own homes.
In 1948, Blackburn gathered a group of local community and business leaders and formed the Board for Fundamental Education (BFE), for which they received a congressional charter in 1954. As executive director and later CEO of the BFE for 30 years, Blackburn used Flanner House and eventually 29 other test sites to develop programs to train and educate low-income workers.
While directing Flanner House, Blackburn was also president of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas (1953-1964). He was a Rosenwald fellow at Indiana University in 1941 and received honorary doctorates from several universities. He also held leadership positions in numerous local organizations, includingand the .