James L. Buckley, R.I.P.

Published August 18, 2023
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With sorrow I advise that James L. Buckley has died.  He was 100.

The sad news that James L. Buckley has died proves the adage that “the good always die young”.  Although Senator / Judge / Secretary Buckley was a centenarian, his death at the age of 100 came far too soon.

The great major league baseball catcher Joe Garagiola used to joke, “I wasn’t even the best catcher on my block!”  When Mr. Garagiola was growing up in St. Louis, he lived right across the street from Yogi Berra.

If one knew Jim Buckley, one knew what William F. Buckley meant when he’d say, “I’m not the smartest of the Buckley boys!”  Imagine being the younger brother of Jim Buckley and knowing every day of one’s life that, as brilliant and charismatic as Bill was, there was always immediately at hand someone who, though more self-effacing, was even kinder, even smarter, and even harder working.

As Erasmus said of Thomas More, Jim Buckley was born for friendship.  He was a loyal and attentive friend;  a constant maker of friends;  and, for his legion of friends, a faithful source of encouragement and sage advice, even at the end of his days.

Jim Buckley was a loyal servant of his country.  He was the rare person who served in all three branches of the Federal government, as an Under Secretary of State, as a United States Senator from New York, and as a United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  He made a mark in all three branches, too.

He even managed to serve his country as a litigant:  He was the lead plaintiff in a historic First Amendment case decided by the United States Supreme Court, Buckley v. Valeo, which secured important boundaries on the authority of Congress to restrict political speech.

Ronald Reagan thought so highly of Jim Buckely that he put him in charge of economics at the State Department;  then he put him in charge of Radio Free Europe;  and finally he put him on a Federal court just one rung below the Supreme Court.

It was a privilege to live in the same century with Jim Buckley.