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Noted psychologist Theodore Blau

Dr. Blau taught graduate psychology courses at the University of South Florida and elsewhere.

By OLIVIA GIFFORD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 1, 2003

TAMPA -- Dr. Theodore Hertzel Blau, a noted clinical and forensic psychologist and author, died Tuesday (Jan. 28, 2003) at home after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.

Born in Huntington, W.Va., Dr. Blau grew up in rural Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. He was an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and began working summers as a railroad laborer when he was 14.

In 1946, Dr. Blau enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Once, he played poker with President Harry S. Truman while accompanying the president on a flight from Missouri to Washington, D.C., said his son, Richard, a Tampa attorney.

As a child, Dr. Blau was interested in magic, and once shook hands with Harry Houdini.

He also went scuba diving with Phillipe Cousteau, Jacques' grandson, according to his son.

After earning a bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. from Penn State University on the G.I. Bill, Dr. Blau completed his residency at the VA hospital in Perry Point, Md., and moved his family to Tampa.

In 1955, he began a successful private clinical practice providing patient assessment and psychotherapy, specializing in child psychology, cognitive development disorders and behavior modification.

Over the next 30 years, Dr. Blau rose through the ranks of the academic and clinical worlds of psychology. He was an early follower of the behavioral scientist B. F. Skinner, as well as a protege of the progressive social scientist Kenneth B. Clark.

In the 1970s, Dr. Blau became active in the American Psychological Association, becoming the first independent clinical psychologist to be elected president in 1977. Also in 1977, Blau was honored as an "Alumni Fellow" from Penn State University. Blau also was the recipient of an Honorary Life Member of the New York Society of Clinical Psychologists, the Nation Distinguished Service Award of the Florida Psychological Association, Distinguished Contribution Award of the Philadelphia Society of Clinical Psychologists, and Distinguished Psychologist Award of the California State Psychological Association.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Blau taught psychology to undergraduate and graduate students at academic institutions, including the University of South Florida.

Following his tenure as the APA President, Dr. Blau began work in forensic psychology. He authored several books, including The Psychologist as Expert Witness.

In 1985, Dr. Blau began working in police psychology and lectured regularly at the FBI Academy in Quantico on the credibility of child witnesses. He was commissioned as chief inspector of the Manatee County Sheriff's Behavioral Science Unit for more than 10 years, and he testified as a psychological expert for prosecutors at the District Attorney's Office of Santa Fe, N.M., and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Dr. Blau also performed psychological assessments of capital crime defendants on a pro bono basis for the Public Defender's Office of Palm Beach County and was a sworn inspector for the U.S. Customs Service, consulting with the federal agency on high priority screening and detection programs.

"He was the brightest, neatest man, and a pleasure to know," Richard Blau said.

In addition to his son Richard, survivors include his wife of 52 years, Dr. Lili Blau; a son, Jeffrey, Treasure Island; a brother, Dr. Ben Ami Blau, Sarasota; and four grandchildren, Hannah, Jennah, Joshua and Alexander.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 2713 Bayshore Blvd. In lieu of flowers, a charitable foundation is being established in Dr. Blau's name. Details will be announced Sunday.

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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