HOUSTON — The ACLU of Texas announced today that Oni K. Blair will serve as its next executive director, leading the organization forward through one of the most challenging environments ever in Texas following sharpened legislative attacks on voting, reproductive and LGBTQ rights among other issues.
Blair, who will officially assume her new role June 21, comes to the ACLU of Texas after serving as executive director of LINK Houston, a non-profit organization advocating for robust and equitable transportation for all Houstonians. Blair helped shape a $7 billion transit plan to increase equitable bus access; compelled the mayor to fix Houston’s dangerous intersections and launch a zero-fatality safety campaign; aligned advocates of affordable housing and transportation; and won $51.5 million for communities of color adversely impacted by highway expansion.
“We knew the next executive director must not only be a person of great vision, but also capable of inspiring and leading our dynamic and diverse staff through the civil liberties challenges we face in Texas,” said ACLU of Texas Board Chair Ranjana Natarajan. “The Board of Directors through our search committee screened dozens of applicants from around the country and Oni quickly emerged as a candidate whose leadership skills, public policy experience, and commitment to diversity and equity issues made her the perfect fit.”
Blair is the first Black woman to lead the ACLU of Texas in its 83-year history.
“I look forward to joining the ACLU of Texas, an organization that has been a long-standing defender of civil liberties and civil rights for Texans and nationwide,” Blair said. “I know that I’ll be working with a strong team across the organization, and I look forward to centering the work around our shared values and expertise to advance the rights of all people in Texas.”
Before Blair’s work at LINK, she was a Foreign Service Officer for over a decade. Later, with the U.S. Department of State, she served as director of the Human Rights Bureau’s Near Eastern Affairs Office and as Special Assistant for Near East to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. She served at the U.S. embassies in Jordan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
She brings to the ACLU of Texas an extensive network of influence with policymakers at every level of government. She served on the 2020-2021 Biden-Harris transition as a member of the agency review team for the U.S. Department of State. She also served as co-chair of the transition team for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, following Hidalgo’s historic 2018 election to the executive position of Harris County, the third largest county by population in the United States.
Blair earned her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.