By Cheryl Hatch
A good reporter. A good writer. A good man. That’s how friends, colleagues and family remember Sam Bailey.
A veteran of two wars, Bailey, 87, died on Sunday, Dec. 13, in Corvallis. Bailey served on the Oregon State University journalism faculty for three years, as the head of the University News Bureau for 18 years and 18 additional years as the director of information.
As a journalist, teacher and mentor, Bailey was known for his integrity, positive outlook and commitment to the truth. He left a legacy of former students who became accomplished journalists.
“He, in a sense, gave me my first job at the university,” said Jim Folts, OSU professor of art. Bailey hired Folts as a darkroom person when he was a student. Later, Bailey, who worked at the News Bureau, was one of three people who interviewed Folts for his job as editor at Sea Grant.
“The News Bureau was different then; almost like an AP (Associated Press) on campus,” Folts said. “They just pumped the news out. He was never dissembling, always straightforward. He was always interested in the story.”
Folts said Bailey had a “(Joe) Friday approach: just the facts ma’am.”
Gwil Evans, a former colleague and friend, saw Bailey’s hand in producing his own obituary, which was published in the Gazette-Times on Wednesday.
“I could imagine that Sam wrote that,” Evans said. “It had that level of detail.”
Bailey “came out of a top-notch ag journalism program at University of Wisconsin,” said Evans, an OSU professor of communications.
Evans and Bailey were colleagues in the departments of journalism and information.“We continued to work within 20 feet of each other for years.”
Evans described Bailey as honorable, ethical and professional. In the early days, the departments of information and journalism overlapped. The late Fred Zwahlen and Bailey shared a commitment to journalistic principles.
“He was very attentive to the ethics of journalism. These guys (Bailey and Zwahlen) are not going to shape the story to make the university look good.”
He remembered how excited Bailey was when he began writing about getting grants. “In those days, it was news if we got a grant of $500 or more.”
An OSU alum, Dennis Dimick, an executive editor at National Geographic magazine, credits Bailey for his successful career.
“He was a wonderful, caring man who was instrumental in changing my life; a catalyst who expanded my horizons,” Dimick wrote in an e-mail. “I would not be where I am today had Sam not guided me along the path of life at a critical time.”
Bailey helped Dimick get a scholarship to the master’s program at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 1980, Dimick received a call from National Geographic. “The man who hired me, William L. Allen, who later served a decade as editor of National Geographic magazine, hired me sight unseen,” Dimick wrote. “Allen said it was my master’s degree that made the difference. That put me a cut above the other candidates. So without Sam Bailey, there would have been no master’s degree. There would have been no job at National Geographic.”
Chris Anderson, a former student and OSU alumnus, remembered Bailey as a down-to-earth man who offered him good advice.
“There were more than two times when I needed advice, and Sam was always the guy you’d go to,” said Anderson, who is the publisher of The Oregonian. “He would just talk you through it. My world — and I think the world — is a lot better for Sam having been around.”
Bailey loved his job, said Doris, his wife of 65 years. “He went to work whistling, and he came home whistling.”
They married in 1944, when Bailey was home on leave from the Army. Soon after, Bailey was sent to England.
“On (D-Day) plus 18, he went into France,” his widow said. He was wounded by shrapnel in his right wrist. He was called again to serve in the Korean War.
The Baileys raised three sons and three daughters in the same Corvallis house. Bailey was a teacher-leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He gave 1,082 patriarchal blessings to young people.
After 50 years of marriage, Bailey used his PERS settlement to get a new wedding ring for his wife. She insisted he get one, too. Now she wears his ring on a gold chain around her neck.
“That’s a comfort to me,” she said, as she clutched it.
During a recent stay in the hospital, a man told Bailey he had stubborn veins, as he tried to draw his blood.
“I said that’s the only part of this gentle man that is,” Doris said. “He’s the most gentle soul. He was a very, very special person.”