The Skinny never had trouble identifying who was calling as soon as the first consonant was uttered loudly by the caller.

“R-r-r-r-r-i-c-k,” Dave Murray would say, stretching the R to seconds in length.

Sadly, that booming voice (he obviously knew I am bordering on deaf; many people remember Dave as speaking softly) won’t be heard any more.

Murray, the founder of ClearImage PR in Raleigh and a partner at Southern Capitol Ventures, died unexpectedly on Sunday.

He was only 49 years young.

Entrepreneurs across the Triangle and North Carolina lost a valuable friend, mentor and ally.

The Green Bay Packers also lost one of their most avid fans. Dave loved to talk to me about trips to Packers games, and I almost always asked how he felt the Pack was doing, knowing full well I would probably be told more than I really wanted to hear. But what are colleagues for?

Invariably, Dave was calling to “pitch” a story. I respected him deeply, and I always listened – even if we were talking about a story that had already been “promised” to competitor as an exclusive.

Did we have our differences? Of course. Story shopping is something I have never cared for. But, hey, we talked through the issues and moved on

I first met Murray back in 1995-6 when he was working public relations for InteractiveMagic, a gaming company he helped take public in the go-go “dot com” days that seem like ancient history today. We worked together over the years since then in a variety of ways, especially when Murray took some of his profits from the InteractiveMagic IPO to launch the media relations firm ClearImage PR.

Local Tech Wire Lifeline

But here’s something you probably didn’t know about Dave:

Were it not for him, WRAL Tech Wire would probably not be in business today.

Not long after its founding, the then-Local Tech Wire was struggling financially in the depths of the dot com bust and ensuing nuclear winter for tech startups.

But Murray had developed an appreciation for LTW and broached the idea of a partnership: ClearImage would help LTW organize and put on a series of networking events and at the same time sell sponsorships.

Murray threw LTW two lifelines at once:

1. A way to draw more readers by putting on social events that often drew in the range of 100-200 tech executives

2. Sponsorship revenue

While the money was not enough to ever make LTW truly profitable, there was enough income to convince our investors to keep the website opening and the rapidly aging old man running it employed.

In 2006, Capitol Broadcasting bought LTW and later renamed it.

Dave’s commitment to LTW reflected in many ways his same passion for technology and entrepreneurs. He worked with Peak 10 in Charlotte for several years as that company grew into a multi-state data hosting powerhouse. He launched a business focused on helping gaming companies. (Dana Cowley, one of his early hires, left to take over media duties at Epic Games.)

Dave also helped Southern Capitol Ventures get rolling in 2000 – and SouthCap as it’s called is one of the few early-stage VC firms in the southeast. (Note: Capitol is an investor in SouthCap).

Married for 24 years, Dave is survived by his wife Sara, numerous loving family members, many friends – and faithful pets.

As for The Skinny, the “R-r-r-r-ick” calls will be missed.

His funeral will be Friday in Winston-Salem. A complete obituary was published in The News & Observer.