Samuel H. Day, Jr., was a
reporter, editor, and political activistwhose 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 FirstAmendment 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 1990 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
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
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
In 1992 the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation awarded
him its annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Peace Prize.