Ronnie M. Day was born in Brock, Kentucky on September 20, 1939. He lived on a tobacco and dairy farm operated by his father and attended Bush High School in Lida, Kentucky. Day earned his undergraduate degree in 1963 from Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and his M.A. (1965) and Ph.D. (1971) from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Ronnie Day was a history professor at East Tennessee State University from 1968 until 2005.