Ron Bair, Spokane Mayor In '77-81 Who Met Carter In Rumpled Attire

SPOKANE - Ron Bair, a former Spokane mayor and longtime television personality in the city, has died at age 62.

Bair died Friday of cancer in San Diego.

As mayor, Bair was known for such grassroots efforts as community centers and neighborhood town hall meetings, but also drew the business community's anger by pushing through a business-and-occupation tax in 1980.

Bair may best be remembered for greeting President Jimmy Carter in a rumpled safari jacket after Mount St. Helens erupted in May 1980. The eruption scattered volcanic ash over Eastern Washington, including Spokane.

In a later magazine article, Bair said he simply didn't have time to change before hopping a last-minute flight to Portland.

"Normally, you don't dress much better than that during an ash fall," he explained.

Carter took it in stride. "Oh, don't apologize," he told Bair. "You look just like some of the boys back home."

Bair was born in Chicago, moved to Burbank, Calif., at age 14 and began his broadcasting career at a radio station there.

Bair worked in television and radio in California, Kansas and Texas before moving to Spokane's KXLY television in 1964. He was anchorman and news director until 1977, the year he was elected mayor.

In 1981, Bair announced he would not seek a second term, and he left Spokane in 1983 after he wasn't able to find steady work.

Bair lived in Phoenix and San Diego, working as a radio news reporter, an announcer and performer at Sea World and most recently as restaurant reviewer for a community newspaper.