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Douglas T. Day III; Writer, Educator

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 16, 2004; Page B06

Douglas Turner Day III, 72, a 1974 National Book Award winner and retired University of Virginia professor of English, died Oct. 10 at his home in Charlottesville. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Albemarle County police said.

Mr. Day was the author of "Malcolm Lowry: A Biography," which won the National Book Award for its look at the author of "Under the Volcano," considered by many critics to be one of the finest novels of the 20th century.


Douglas Turner Day III won the National Book Award in 1974.


Mr. Day also wrote "Journey of the Wolf," a 1978 novel that won a Rosenthal Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. As an editor, in 1973 he restored William Faulkner's novel "Flags in the Dust," which had been previously published in a much-truncated form in 1929 as "Sartoris."

With Lowry's widow, Mr. Day edited for posthumous publication Lowry's novel "Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid" in 1969.

Gordon Braden, the English Department chairman at the university, said Mr. Day had shifted from scholarship and literary criticism to teaching creative writing in the past 15 years and was working on a novel. He was the director of the creative writing program at the time of his death.

"He was an extremely popular teacher, quite striking in appearance, and he had quite a beautiful voice," Braden said. "He had been used as a model in automobile ads, and I remember seeing one in which he was posed in front of an auto with his bow and arrow."

Mr. Day taught a course on the literature of the Americas, with a special focus on Latin American works, as well as courses on Faulkner and modern literature. Students liked him for his impressive presence and for the fact that he knew authors and works that others did not, Braden said. "For example, he was teaching Gabriel Garcia Marquez when nobody else around here knew him."

Mr. Day was born in Colon, Panama, the son of a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. He received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia.

Mr. Day was a pilot in the Marine Corps until an auto accident in 1955. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

He taught for 38 years at Virginia, where he was the Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and he lectured in Spain and Latin America.

Over the years, he received grants and fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the J. William Fulbright organization. He had a Fulbright lectureship, funded by Intercambio Cultural, at the University of Zaragoza, in Spain. In 1995, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

His study of the poetry of Robert Graves, his first book of literary criticism, won the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for scholarly writing in 1963. He also edited a collection of plays by Federico Garcia Lorca, and published a novel, "The Prison Notebooks of Ricardo Flores Magon," in 1991.

Mr. Day, who was fluent in Spanish, loved new and vintage sports cars, enjoyed travel, was fond of animals and engaged in photography, taking pictures of flamenco musicians and dancers in Andalusia and native residents in Central and South America. He also collected tribal artifacts.

He was preceded in death by an infant daughter, Mary Forsyth Day.

Survivors include his wife, Sheila McMillen Day of Charlottesville; four children, Douglas Turner Day IV of Waynesboro, Va., Ian Christopher Day of Annapolis, Emily Forsyth Day Whitworth of Crozet, Va., and Patrick Ashby Day of Wewahitchka, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.


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