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He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of William N. Blanton (June 23, 1890 – November 27, 1967) and Louise G. Wynn (September 21, 1898 – July 5, 1989). Blanton was raised in Houston, Texas, where his father was general manager of the chamber of commerce. After attending Lamar High School, Blanton earned a B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1947 with a double major in government and history, and an L.L.B. at UT Law School in 1950.
That same year, Blanton went to work for Eddy C. Scurlock at Scurlock Oil Company in the Division Order Department. He rose through the company ranks to become its president in 1958, and eventually CEO and chairman in 1983, a year after the company was sold to Ashland Oil. He retired from his position in 1988 to become the president of Eddy Refining Company, his current job.
He has had three wives. Blanton was married to Laura Lee Scurlock (June 4, 1928 – August 6, 1999), daughter of Eddy C. Scurlock; the Laura Lee Blanton Building at Southern Methodist University is named for her. On October 14, 2000, he and Lucinda B. Bailey (November 4, 1934 – March 2, 2002) were married. He and Virginia "Ginger" Nelson were married on November 30, 2002. He and Laura Lee Scurlock Blanton had three children, Elizabeth Louise Blanton (born February 1, 1951); Jack Sawtelle Blanton, Jr. (born July 28, 1953); and Eddy Scurlock Blanton (born May 25, 1955).
Blanton has been a civic leader in Houston, where he served as the chairman of the board of Houston Endowment Inc. He also served on the boards of the Methodist Hospital Healthcare System, the Texas Medical Center, the Houston Zoo, and the Jesse H. Jones School of Management at Rice University, among many others. From 1985–1991, he was a Regent of the University of Texas, appointed by Governor White. He served as chairman from 1987–1989. During this time, Blanton had a hand in influencing the Texas Legislature to support more generously the University of Texas System.
During the oil and real estate crises of the 1980s, Blanton served as chairman of the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce, where he notably helped resolve conflict with effective communication and good working relations.