Another Eph Marine has passed away.

Lyell Clay, the former Daily Mail publisher who was known for his philanthropy and his love of music and the arts, has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Clay died about 1:30 p.m. Thursday at his Charleston home with his family at his side. He was 83.

For three decades, he was principal stockholder and publisher of the Daily Mail. In 1987, he sold the newspaper along with several other media properties and established the Clay Foundation with his brother, Buckner Clay.

Some say day I will be writing an obituary for a different Eph, a younger man than Lyell Clay, but, like him, a Williams man, a Marine and a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. With luck that day is far, far away.

The newspaper, dating back to the 1880s, had been purchased in 1914 by former Alaska governor, teacher and reporter Eli Clark, who later married Clay’s widowed mother, Juliet Staunton Clark. At his mother’s death in 1953, Clay became a principal stockholder in the newspaper.

In 1958 Clay played a key role in the Daily Mail’s formation of a joint operating agreement with the Charleston Gazette. It was an arrangement that has preserved two distinct editorial voices in West Virginia’s capital to this day, when most American cities have only one newspaper.

Newspaper publishing was one of the great ways to make a fortune in the 20th century. Although it is nice that “two distinct editorial voices” were preserved, you can bet that those wanting to advertise or purchase a classified ad were ill-served to have to deal with a monopoly.

Early in the foundation’s work, Clay said to a Daily Mail reporter, “It’s hard not to sound pontifical, but I really feel that we are trustees for all that which we are given in life. If we’re lucky enough to make money instead of losing it, I think that charges us with a kind of fiduciary responsibility to do something with it.”

Indeed. Do we have any readers with memories of Clay? If so, please share them.

Condolences to all.

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