William F. Buckley, Jr., an icon of conservative ideas whose wit and wisdom conveyed a course for freedom through a turbulent era in American history, passed away peacefully at his desk on Wednesday, February 27. Editor of National Review, host of the television show “Firing Line,” novelist, musician, sailor, and one-time candidate for mayor of New York City, Buckley possessed a rare command of the English language and was a founder of the modern conservative movement.
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Buckley’s humor belied a fierce warrior in the arena of social movements. A champion of free- market economics and a stalwart anti-communist, Buckley advised presidents and international leaders in the ways of ensuring individual freedom for the common man. Listening to his artful articulation in debates was analogous to watching a master swordsman dance around his opponent, draw him in with a feint, and still the enemy’s argument with the quick thrust of a stiletto honed in logic.
In 1950, Buckley graduated from Yale University with honors and married socialite Patricia Alden Austin Taylor. He challenged the collectivist norms at Yale by publishing God and Man at Yale in 1951. After a brief stint as a CIA agent, Buckley founded National Review in 1955.
Frustrated with the lack of conservative ideas in published intellectual thought, he used the biweekly magazine as a vehicle to revive conservative ideology. The circulation grew from 16,000 in 1957 to approximately 125,000 in 1964. He influenced Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. George Will and David Brooks were young writers for the magazine. In 2004, when Buckley relinquished control of National Review, it had a circulation of 155,000.
On February 27, William joined his beloved wife Pat, who died in 2007. The musings of William F. Buckley have given both royalty and the working man pause for thought on the ideas of democracy and freedom for more than 55 years. What else would one expect from a great American, who at the age of 8 wrote to the King of England and requested payment of the British war debt.
Sandy Liddy Bourne ([email protected]) is vice president of policy and strategic development for The Heartland Institute.