Activist-Journalist Sam Day Dies

from the Wisconsin State Journal
January 28 2001
by State Journal staff, AP

Samuel H. Day, Jr., a Madison activist and journalist whose efforts to publish a detailed account of how to build a hydrogen bomb resulted in a landmark First Amendment case, died Friday of a stroke. He was 74.

As managing editor of Madison-based The Progressive magazine in 1979, Day fought to publish freelance writer Howard Morland's article "The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why We're Telling It."

In the midst of the Cold War, federal officials worried about the national security risks of a how-to article on building the bomb. They asked The Progressive to censor the article. The magazine refused, and the government went to court.

Day and others at 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 complete article was published.

Day also was arrested many times during protests of military operations. He served six months in federal prison for occupying a missile launch site in 1988. Following a 1991 arrest at Fort McCoy, he had a serious stroke that caused him to go blind. With his white cane, he continued to protest and was arrested as recently as 1998 during a protest at a military facility in Israel.

Former Madison Fire Chief Ed Durkin, a longtime peace activist, was one of many mourning Day, saying, "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."

Bonnie Block, chair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, said Day's "passion for peace" was an inspiration for other local activists. "He talked about looking for truth all the time," Block said. "He was a strong voice and a good role model for those of us who are peace activists."

Day is survived by his wife, Kathleen; 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.