Maj. Herb Day remembered as tough but caring leader
He’s been called “Mr. Citadel” and a Citadel icon, but no matter what he’s been called it is clear Maj. Herb Day touched the lives of many Citadel cadets over his 20 years leading The Citadel Regimental Band.
In the days since his passing there has been an outpouring of support and condolences from past Band Company cadets. A memorial page on Facebook has a rapidly growing membership of 400 people who have shared stories and photos of Day.
“My fondest memories include Maj. Day our knob year (in 1984). His first year was our (first year) as well. Although they didn't make him walk in the gutters. He challenged us, chided us and showed us disciplined leadership,” said Ken Gordon, ’77.
“I will always remember those ice cold blue eyes, with the steely glare, especially if you hit the wrong note, found yourself playing too fast or too slow or found yourself somewhere no one else was,” Gordon said. “But I will also remember the heart of gold that would help you beyond the music room. He helped so many of us not only be better musicians, but better soldiers and men. He was an officer, a gentleman, a mentor, a perfectionist, a true professional, a tremendous trumpet player and one heck of a band leader.”
Will Simpson, ’98, said Day “was the reason I went to, and made it through, The Citadel.”
“He was a perfectionist, and instilled into us a desire to succeed. He wouldn't settle for anything less than our best and it made us all better for it,”Simpson said in his Facebook memorial page post. “He was such a mentor to so many men and women. While it seemed like he was too hard on us sometimes, he loved each and every one of the cadets that he came into contact with.”
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Day enlisted in the Marines when he was 18. While on active duty, he earned a degree in music from St. Leo College. During his 24 years of military service, Day directed the Quantico Band, 3rd Division Marine Band, Marine Field Band, and a Drum and Bugle Corps Program. He also served as officer in charge of the Marine Element Armed Forces School of music.
Day came to The Citadel in 1984 and the regimental band and pipe band flourished under his leadership. In 1991, The Citadel Regimental Band became the first military college band to play in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. In part because of the band’s success in Scotland in 1991, the Regimental Band and Pipes received a prestigious return invitation to the Tattoo for it Diamond Jubliee year in 2010. While the band was in Scotland, Day had returned to campus to conduct auditions for incoming band cadets.
Day retired in 2004. That same year he received The Citadel’s Palmetto Medal, which is second only to an honorary degree and recognizes performance that reflects great credit on the military college and the state of South Carolina.
I spoke with Major Day usually once a month, and made it a point every Thanksgiving and Christmas to call and wish him the best to him and his family," said Jay Wagner, '05, "He was like a grandfather figure to me, as both of mine died when I was young. I know this year will be hard not to hear his voice on the other end saying 'Hey guy!!' "
Beyond Lesesne Gate, Day’s talents as director of the Charleston Community Band enriched cultural life in the Lowcountry. Colleges and high schools nationwide have recruited Day to judge competitions on his rare free weekends.
“On behalf of the Military School Band Association, we will all miss our friend and colleague, Major Herb Day,” Ed Richards posted on the Facebook memorial page. “Herb was conductor for the Military School Band Festival in 1983, 1992, 2003 and most recently, in February 2010. He was great musician and role model. He was truly a gentleman, and he set the highest standard for us all.”
Day is survived by his wife Patricia Ann Vaughn Day of Charleston.; a daughter: Dawn Day Volpe (Matthew) of Atlanta, Ga.; son Herbert Scott Day (Ana Sofia) of San Diego, Calif.; a sister, Mary Ann Givens of Rossville, Ga; brother-in-law and sister-in-law: Larry and Terri Lowrance of Rossville, Ga.; and two grandchildren.
The family asks that memorials be made to The Herbert L. Day Regimental Band Scholarship Fund, c/o The Citadel, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409.
Thanks to Alumni News, The Citadel Alumni Association, for contributing to this story.