SPEARFISH — Radio legend and longtime Black Hills State University professor Dave Diamond died Monday.
Although the cause of death is not yet clear, Diamond had been battling pneumonia for much of the year.
Diamond, 77, whose real name is Sid I. Davison, Jr., a professor emeritus in journalism at BHSU who still taught a writing class, is most widely known as a successful radio and television personality. Through the 1960s, he worked for a number of radio stations, including KOIL in Omaha, KBTR in Denver and KFRC in San Francisco. It was there that fellow BHSU professor Steve Babbitt, then a teenager, listened to Diamond’s show, The Diamond Mine.
“It was the most cutting edge show on the air,” Babbitt said Wednesday. “He played all the cool music. It was the only show worth listening to.”
Diamond later moved to Los Angles where he worked for the AM radio powerhouse KFI.
During his tenure in L.A., Diamond toured with The Beatles during their first American tour and helped produce the 1976 psychedelic hit “Incense and Peppermints” by Strawberry Alarm Clock. That same year Diamond spun a tune called “Light my Fire” by a largely unknown L.A. rock band called “The Doors.”
Diamond was one of the first DJs to play the legendary single igniting The Doors’ rise to stardom and legend.
Diamond left L.A. in the mid-1980s to take care of his ailing parents in Howard, S.D. He taught mass communication classes at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, for several years, and would commute to Howard on the weekends.
“I always knew that I’d be back in the Black Hills,” Diamond reflected after moving to Spearfish in 1995 to teach at Black Hills State University.
It was then that Babbitt and Diamond met.
“He got about halfway down the hall and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s The Dave Diamond.’” Babbitt said. “I ran after him and asked if he was the Dave Diamond from KFRC in San Francisco and he said, ‘Yes.’ We became fast friends ever since.”
Babbitt said there’s no doubt Diamond will have a lasting legacy from his radio days.
“But I think his greater legacy will be the students whose lives he affected. He touched so many lives in very, very positive ways,” Babbitt said.
Diamond turned a defunct KBHU radio and TV station around.
“People were not interested in being involved in being on the radio or TV station,” Babbitt said. “Dave came on and built it up. It became an incredible presence in both TV and radio. People were lining up to work at the stations. In fact, you probably can’t go to any radio or TV stations within 150 miles of here and not find people who were schooled by or inspired by Dave. He is a legend.”
Babbitt recalled Diamond as a man who helped his students reach their goals.
“Dave had a saying, ‘Don’t explain and don’t complain,’” Babbitt said. “That’s the way he ran his classes and lived his life. He wanted to get the job done. He had an incredible way of making things happen and getting students involved and making students feel that they could accomplish anything they set their minds to.
“Some of my best memories of Dave are the discussions that we have had over the years about that very thing. ‘How do you inspire your students? How do you make them feel they are capable of doing great things?’ To whatever extent that I have been able to do that in my career, I owe much of that to Dave and his mentoring and wisdom. He is truly a remarkable human.”
Diamond was also a well-known author and continued to write to the end.
“He was still working on a manuscript the day before yesterday,” Babbitt said.
“He’s still with us,” Babbitt said. “He’ll be with me for as long as I live. He’ll just be on a higher frequency.”
Amanda Goetz knew Diamond from a class she took and she then served as his assistant for the past year and a half.
“There’s not a way to explain Dave. You had to meet him to know him,” Goetz said. “He was such an awesome human being. I can’t put it to words.”
She recalled fondly his love of dinner at Killian’s Tavern and Steakhouse in Spearfish.
“We would go and spend at least a solid four hours at dinner. He would drink Jack Daniel’s and lime Cokes, drawing with Crayons on the table his ‘lost boys of the universe,’” she said. “We’d always finish dinner with a couple scoops of vanilla with chocolate syrup on top. He would say how fun it was and how decadent the ice cream was. It was the simple things.”
Goetz too said Diamond was a great influence in peoples’ lives.
“He would always tell me stories about his students,” she said. “He’s helped so many people reach for what they really wanted when they didn’t think they could. He was always optimistic and always wanted to see you succeed. That’s Dave.”
BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp said he would be missed.
“Dave Diamond was a significant presence in the radio/entertainment world. He continued to care deeply about his profession during the past few years of his retirement and remained active through teaching and supervision of students. He was a friend to many at BHSU and will be missed.”
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