from the Nuclear Resister
January 30 2001
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of our dear friend, supporter, and mentor. Sam Day, writer, activist, nuclear resister, died of a massive stroke in Madison, Wisconsin on January 26 at the age of 74. He was the coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu. In past years, he served as the director of Nukewatch, editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, managing editor of the Progressive magazine, and was recipient of the 1992 Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize awarded by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
As a long-time activist who had himself spent time in prison as a result of his anti-nuclear convictions, Sam felt the rightness of Mordechai Vanunu's truth-telling to the very core of his being, and worked tirelessly on Mordechai's behalf and for their common vision of a nuclear-free world. What you may not know is how integral Sam was to the Nuclear Resister. We met Sam when we lived in Madison in 1981, and since that time he has supported and advised our work. He had extensive journalistic training and experience; we had none.
Sam at Ashkelon Prison, Israel
It was Sam who convinced us early on that if the newsletter was to survive, we would have to charge money for subscriptions, and not just send it out for free. He was the one who prodded us to change the name, insisting that The Newsletter of the National No Nukes Prison Support Collective wasn't catchy enough. He patiently explained, more than once, how to send out subscription renewal reminders and why it would be good to send out fund appeal letters. It was Sam who first suggested that we expand our coverage to include anti-war actions, and he continued to bring it up until the bombing of Iraq in 1991 convinced us that we had to begin. Sometimes it took us awhile to incorporate his advice. And sometimes we never did.
But Sam never stopped supporting us. For years during the '80's, he wrote us a note after each and every issue, filled with feedback and encouragement, telling us which articles he particularly liked. He never received a fund appeal letter from us without immediately sending a contribution. And in recent years, when we worked closely with him as associate coordinators of the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, he regularly asked detailed questions about how the Nuclear Resister was doing, and was always willing to spend time bouncing ideas around with us and offering advice.
We talked often, not just about the newsletter and what more we could do to work for Vanunu's freedom, but about the state of activism, the future of the peace movement, the issues of the day, our families - on airplanes, in pubs, at demon-strations, on the phone, at our kitchen table. His clarity, directness, and sense of humor made him a lot of fun to be with. We will miss him.
Contributions in Sam's memory can be made to The Progressive, Nukewatch, the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu, the Nuclear Resister, or another organization of your choosing.
We were also saddened to learn in December that Catholic Worker Chuck Trapkus was killed in a car accident. We have for many years admired Chuck's activism, enjoyed his cartoons and graphics, and appreciated occasional conversations with him about the challenges of publishing a small newsletter.
Both men would likely agree with Joe Hill's admonition as he faced an untimely end: "Don't mourn. Organize!" And so we'll continue, spurred on by fond memories of these dedicated souls.