R.L. Day, a former Telegraph editorial writer known for his dry and often biting wit, died Thursday in New Port Richey, Florida. He was 76.
Day died of a brain hemorrhage, his wife, Margaret Martin, said.
His career at the newspaper spanned 34 years -- from October 1966 until December 2000. Early on, Day was a crime reporter and later moved up to editor of the Sunday edition. But to most readers, he will be remembered for his years as an editorial writer.
“He was one of the characters you would find in newsrooms of old,” said Barbara Stinson, a former editorial page editor at The Telegraph.
“He was very quiet and unassuming. ... He had a measured way of speaking. Even when he was angry about things, he was very measured.”
Stinson called Day a “unique individual” who “walked slow, talked slow and had a quick wit.”
“He was one of the few who had a very long history (at The Telegraph) and was there through a lot of changes,” she said.
Born Rupert Lagree Day but known to most folks as simply “R.L.,” the newspaperman found out he had his own fan base when he left The Telegraph nearly 15 years ago.
“When he left, he got a lot of calls from his readers,” Martin said. “That made him feel good.”
In the days immediately following his departure from the paper, readers commented in The Telegraph’s now-defunct Straight Talk feature.
“I was sorry to read that R.L. Day will be leaving your paper. He was certainly a bright spot for me and he had a great sense of humor. We will miss him very much,” one reader said.
Another responded: “The news is shocking to me. R.L. Day is leaving The Macon Telegraph? Say it isn’t so. As a great writer and humorist, he helped make The Telegraph a pleasure to read. I will miss him, and I wish him happiness.”
Charles Richardson, the current editorial page editor, said Day brought a lot to the newspaper.
“He was part of the fabric that made this newspaper a great newspaper,” Richardson said.
Day, who wrote a humor column, had a “quirky sense of humor” that was lost on some people.
“But what was humorous was that people took him seriously,” Richardson said.
Day, an old-school newspaperman who could draw the layout for a page “faster than anybody around,” was slow to embrace technology, Richardson said.
“He was not built for the computer age,” he recalled. Day’s departure from the paper came just a little more than four years after The Telegraph’s website macon.com debuted.
Richardson said Day was someone he enjoyed being around.
“Most people thought he was standoffish, but actually he was kind of shy,” Richardson said. “He was well-read, smart and funny.”
And when it came to writing editorials, he had the respect of his colleagues.
“In just a few words, he could summarize the (editorial) discussion and crystalize it,” Richardson said. “And he could bring humor to some very serious subjects without insulting anybody.”
Martin, Day’s wife, said he loved to read until the end. When he was recently hospitalized, she said, he asked her to take several of his books from their New Port Richie home to the hospital.
“That was quintessential R.L.,” she said. “He always had a book near him or in his hand.”
Funeral arrangements for Day were incomplete Friday. He is survived by Martin and a stepson, Eric.
To contact writer Andy M. Drury, call 744-4477 or follow him on Twitter@maconpaperboy.