James Day, 89, who co-founded an early public television station and became known for his masterful interviews with well-known figures, died April 24 of respiratory failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. His death was announced by KQED-TV Channel 9, the San Francisco station he helped create in 1954.
For 16 years, he was president and general manager of the station. He is credited with establishing now-standard public TV fundraising techniques such as pledge nights and televised auctions.
He also was host of a weekly program, “Kaleidoscope,” on which he interviewed hundreds of famous personalities, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Aldous Huxley and Bing Crosby. After Day launched a syndicated version of the show, Cecil Smith wrote in The Times in 1974 that Day had “a kind of genius” for the televised interview.
In 1969, Day became president of National Educational Television, which was then public television’s national network. When the San Francisco station merged with New York’s WDNT-TV, Day served as president of the East Coast station, renamed WNET-TV Channel 13.
From 1976 to 1988, he was a professor of radio and television at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.
Day was born Dec. 22, 1918, in Alameda, Calif., and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1941. He served in the Army during World War II and earned a graduate degree at Stanford University in 1951.