THE death sentence passed on The Evening Sun said that...

Salmagundi

June 06, 1995

THE death sentence passed on The Evening Sun said that "many great journalists, such as H. L. Mencken and William Manchester," once worked there. The list could well have included Price Day. It was to work for The Evening Sun that Day, and Manchester after him, came to Baltimore. Fame came to Mencken and Manchester later, for work published elsewhere; Day, who moved to The Sun during World War II, was full-time at the papers for almost 33 years; the staff generally rated him their best writer.

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The idea began with Paul McCardell, the papers' photo librarian; he spoke to Robert Ruby on the foreign desk; Ruby notified Mike Adams, the editor of Perspective. That was how Price Day's eyewitness account of the 1945 German surrender at Reims, France, came to be reprinted in The Sun May 7, the 50th anniversary of VE-Day.

The war in Europe ended at 2.45 a.m.; winners and losers then went off to bed. For Day, and the 16 other Allied correspondents present, it was time to start writing.

Price Day, then 37, was always one for irony -- if most WWII readers never saw his full story, neither did 1995's readers. Delayed by censor, the story, in takes, came by cable, and The Sun published it May 9 -- in full only in the Final or newsstand edition. It ran 115 paragraphs; Adams, facing Perspective's space constraints, cut it to 47 paragraphs.

Later, Philip Potter's eyewitness account of the Japanese surrender totaled 67 Sun paragraphs. A bigger newshole, in that era.

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Day was born and is buried in the Texas panhandle. He arrived via Chicago and Florida; also in his past were the editorship of Princeton University's humor magazine and the authorship of Saturday Evening Post fiction. A small, quiet man with a Staked Plains squint, and an abiding interest in India, Day as foreign correspondent was to the manner born; the applause included a 1949 Pulitzer Prize. But tensions abated; by 1952, he was writing editorials, by 1960 running the ed page.

In the later 1950s, Day wrote an ed page column, about anything and everything (an advantage over today's fixed-area columnists). These were essays; often the New Yorker's Talk of the Town could not surpass their sparkle, their insights. In 1993, the paper published a 51-page anthology, "Day in The Sun."

But Day's elevation to editor-in-chief meant no more column-writing. "The Sun is making a large mistake," said Gerald W. Johnson, the historian and commentator.

Day's retirement, in 1975, did not turn out to mean more from his typewriter -- on his Louis Armstrong records, football long ago at Nicholas Senn High, his interview with Gandhi (the last one), the peeper pond at his and Allie's place on West Lake Avenue. Nicotine has been the undoing of many a newspaperman; of Price M. Day, at age 71.

On today's merged staffs, talent abounds, but no one is thought of as the best writer.

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