Sam Day, Jr.
October 5, 1926 - January 26, 2001
from Nukewatch, January 29 2001:
Samuel H. Day, Jr., was a reporter, editor, and political activist whose exposures of governmental wrong-doing, as he saw it, brought journalism awards and other citations, including police citations leading to frequent jailings and months of imprisonment.
Born October 5, 1926, at Media, Pennsylvania, into an American diplomatic family posted to South Africa, he began his journalism career as a copy boy at the Washington (D.C.) Evening Star in 1949. He went on to become an Associated Press writer, a reporter and editor in Idaho, and editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the mid-1970s.
Day served as managing editor of The Progressive in 1979, when the monthly political magazine based in Madison, Wisconsin was legally enjoined from publishing an article about secrecy in the U.S. nuclear weapons program. He was a defendant with Editor Erwin Knoll, free-lance writer Howard Morland, and the magazine itself in what came to be a historic First Amendment case.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which designs and manufactures nuclear weapons, secured a Federal Court injunction based on its claim that Morland's article, "The H-Bomb Secret," contained classified information restricted by the Atomic Energy Act. The magazine insisted that all the information came from public sources. After six months the Federal Government dropped the case and the article was published intact.
Day moved to The Progressive in 1978 after four years in Chicago as editor of The Bulletin, a monthly journal established by World War II scientists concerned about the failure of governmental leaders to understand the dangers of atomic weaponry.
He had been a crusading reporter and editor in Idaho in his earlier years. His work on The Bulletin and later The Progressive shaped his later career as a writer and activist focusing on the need for greater public awareness of nuclear dangers.
In 1980 he left The Progressive's staff to work on his own, assisting the American Friends Service Committee and the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation on a project organizing resistance to U.S. nuclear weapons production. His work then and in later years often involved a combination of reporting and political organizing.
In 1982, traveling in South Africa on assignment from The Progressive, Day reported without qualification that South Africa had secretly built a small quantity of atomic weapons as a bulwark to protect apartheid. Eleven years later, on the eve of Democratic elections in that country his "scoop" was confirmed by the South African government.
Through the 1980s, as a director of Nukewatch, a public interest group now based in Luck, Wisc. he organized two national programs to raise the visibility of nuclear weapons transportation and deployment.
One program, the "H-Bomb Truck Watch," enabled anti-nuclear activists to track and follow the unmarked convoys which transport nuclear warheads and their ingredients on the nation's highways.
The other Nukewatch program targeted the 1,000 Air Force Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles in unmarked underground launch sites scattered over the Middle West and Great Plains, each capable of raining nuclear destruction around the world. Volunteers mapped the missile fields and organized vigils and demonstrations at the fences of the underground missile silos.
As an outgrowth of the missile silo campaign, Day and others occasionally risked arrest by entering the silo enclosures and standing on the concrete silo lids in symbolic opposition to the launching of weapons of mass destruction.
In 1988 he joined 13 other Midwesterners in the simultaneous occupation of ten missile launch sites in Missouri. For his part in the "Missouri Peace Planting" he served six months in federal prisons.
Day was imprisoned again for four months in 1991 for entering the Fort McCoy army base in Wisconsin to distribute war crimes literature to the troops the day after the start of the U.S. bombing of the Persian Gulf. In 1993, he was jailed for six weeks for pulling up stakes at the construction site of an Air Force communications tower near Medford, Wisconsin.
Day suffered a series of strokes in prison which left him partially blind, unable to read or drive. But with the help of his family and friends he continued his political activism.
In 1992, following an international peace walk in Israel, he and other peace activists formed the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, which he served as national coordinator. The campaign was part of an international effort to secure the release of Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician serving 18 years in solitary confinement for telling a British newspaper about Israel's secret nuclear weapons program. Day believed, with others, that Vanunu should serve as a model for nuclear weapons workers everywhere. In 1994 Day was arrested seven times for taking part in sit-ins in support of Vanunu at Israeli diplomatic posts in the United States.
Day edited two books, Nuclear Heartland, 1988, detailing the Air Force's missile silo program, and Prisoners On Purpose, 1989, incorporating the prison writings of anti-nuclear activists, both published by Nukewatch. His autobiography, Crossing the Line: From Editor to Activist to Inmate -- a Writer's Journey, was published by Fortkamp in 1990.
Day received the Distinguished Reporting Award of the American Political Science Association in 1962 for investigative stories in the Lewiston (ID) Morning Tribune exposing abuses in Idaho's child welfare program. In the 1960s and early '70s he was regularly honored by the Idaho Press Association for his editorship of The Intermountain Observer, a muck-raking Idaho weekly newspaper. He also served briefly as editor of the Salmon Recorder-Herald, an Idaho country weekly.
In 1992 the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation awarded him its annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Peace Prize.
A graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire, and Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Day served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He edited "The Grape Leaf," newspaper of the 43rd Infantry Division in Germany, and wrote for the European edition of the army newspaper "Stars & Stripes."
Day is survived by his wife Kathleen (Nee Hammond, married in March of 1957), a teacher and Democratic Party activist; a brother, Christopher R. Day, Barnegat Light, New Jersey; a sister, Mayflower Day Brandt, Berkeley, California; three sons, Philip and Joshua, both of Madison, and Samuel III, Chicago, and six granddaughters.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 3 at 3 p.m. in the Pres House chapel on the University of Wisconsin Library Mall in Madison, 731 State St. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to The Progressive, Nukewatch, or The U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu.