One of the great unsung heroes of the entire comics industry, Bill Blackbeard, passed away last month. Today would have been his 85th birthday.
Bill is best known for his work on the absolutely indispensable The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, which was the culmination of more than a decade's worth of research and salvage in his attempt to assemble a complete archive of every major (and almost every minor) comic strip published in American newspapers. Do a google search for him and you'll find a number of glowing tributes detailing his efforts, or, if you want a quick illustrated version, read through my four-page comics tribute that I drew back in 2003.
I never met Bill in person, and only had a few brief periods of correspondence with him, mostly while preparing that comic, and I'm still kicking myself for not taking the time to rent a car, dust off my tape recorder and spend an afternoon shooting the breeze with him about comics, about the changing face of comics scholarship, and just to shake his hand and thank him for everything he's done. Someone summed up his legacy really succinctly by saying "Bill Blackbeard gave comics its memory," and that pretty much says it.