Peace Activist Sam Day Dies

from the Madison Capital Times
January 27 2001
by David Callender

Samuel H. Day, Jr., a Madison leader in the quest for global peace and nuclear disarmament who was often jailed for acts of civil disobedience, died Friday of a massive stroke. He was 74.

Day's activism spanned decades, beginning with his career as a journalist and continuing after he retired as editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and managing editor of The Progressive magazine.

While at The Progressive, Day was part of a team that fought the federal government to publish an article detailing how an H-bomb worked.

The magazine insisted that all the information in the article came from public sources, but the government claimed the information was classified, no matter what the source. After six months, the government dropped the case and the article was published intact.

Day left the magazine in 1980 to work on his own. In the mid-1980's, he helped found Nukewatch, a public interest group that monitored nuclear weapons transportation and deployment.

Nukewatch mapped underground launch sites for nuclear missiles in the Midwest and then organized vigils and demonstrations at the sites. Day and others were arrested several times for entering the silo enclosures and standing on the silo lids in symbolic opposition to the weapons.

In 1988, he was one of 14 arrested during the simultaneous occupation of 10 missile launch sites in Missouri. He then served six months in federal prison.

Also in the 1980's, he was a member of the Nu Parable Dancers, a group that sought to take its "dance of death," simulating the results of a nuclear explosion, into shopping malls in Madison.

In 1991, Day was imprisoned for entering Fort McCoy to distribute anti-war-crimes literature the day after the start of the Persian Gulf War.

While serving that sentence, Day suffered a stroke that caused him to lose his sight, but not his passion for peace.

Day remained a fixture at national and internaional rallies, such as those protesting the bombing of Yugoslavia last year, where he could be seen carrying a white cane and wearing a bright red peaked cap.

In 1992, Day became a U.S. coordinator of the movement to free Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli nuclear technician imprisoned for revealing the status of that nations's weapons program. He was arrested seven times in 1994 for taking part in sit-ins at Israeli diplomatic posts in the United States.

Day's death Friday came as a shock.

As recently as Thursday, he had called The Capital Times city desk to alert an editor to the upcoming trial of a group protesting a military installation in northern Wisconsin.

His wife, Kathleen, said he suffered a stroke while shaving Friday morning. He was taken to University Hospital and then transferred to St. Marys Hospital, where he died.

Word of his death was received with sorrow late Friday night by those who had worked with him over the years.

"He will be missed," said former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Garvey, who called Day "a real light" to others.

Bonnie Block, a neighbor of Day's and chair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, said Day could always be counted on to rouse a crowd and to speak of his passion for peace.

Last year, when the network gave Day its "Peacemaker of the Year" award, Block said that Day reminded the group "that we need to keep working. Our efforts on behalf of peace and justice need to be continuous."

Former Madison Fire Chief Ed Durkin, a longtime peace activist, said, "To me, Sam Day had more moral courage than anyone I ever met. I'm glad he did have that courage, and I'm sad to see him go."

Day is survived by his wife; a brother, Christopher R. Day of Barnegat Light, N.J.; a sister, Mayflower Day Brandt of Berkeley, CA; three sons, Philip and Joshua of Madison and Samuel III of Chicago; and six granddaughters.