Skip to comments.William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82
Posted on 02/27/2008 8:56:30 AM PST by NormsRevenge
NEW YORK - William F. Buckley Jr., the erudite Ivy Leaguer and conservative herald who showered huge and scornful words on liberalism as he observed, abetted and cheered on the right's post-World War II rise from the fringes to the White House, died Wednesday. He was 82.
His assistant Linda Bridges said Buckley was found dead by his cook at his home in Stamford, Conn. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.
Editor, columnist, novelist, debater, TV talk show star of "Firing Line," harpsichordist, trans-oceanic sailor and even a good-natured loser in a New York mayor's race, Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, the National Review.
Yet on the platform he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.
"I am, I fully grant, a phenomenon, but not because of any speed in composition," he wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986. "I asked myself the other day, `Who else, on so many issues, has been so right so much of the time?' I couldn't think of anyone."
Buckley had for years been withdrawing from public life, starting in 1990 when he stepped down as top editor of the National Review. In December 1999, he closed down "Firing Line" after a 23-year run, when guests ranged from Richard Nixon to Allen Ginsberg. "You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," he told the audience.
"For people of my generation, Bill Buckley was pretty much the first intelligent, witty, well-educated conservative one saw on television," fellow conservative William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said at the time the show ended. "He legitimized conservatism as an intellectual movement and therefore as a political movement."
Fifty years earlier, few could have imagined such a triumph. Conservatives had been marginalized by a generation of discredited stands from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism which preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Liberals so dominated intellectual thought that the critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."
Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it." Not only did he help revive conservative ideology, especially unbending anti-Communism and free market economics, his persona was a dynamic break from such dour right-wing predecessors as Sen. Robert Taft.
Although it perpetually lost money, the National Review built its circulation from 16,000 in 1957 to 125,000 in 1964, the year conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential candidate. The magazine claimed a circulation of 155,000 when Buckley relinquished control in 2004, citing concerns about his mortality, and over the years the National Review attracted numerous young writers, some who remained conservative (George Will, David Brooks), and some who didn't (Joan Didion, Garry Wills).
"I was very fond of him," Didion said Wednesday. "Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him."
Born Nov. 24, 1925, in New York City, William Frank Buckley Jr. was the sixth of 10 children of a a multimillionaire with oil holdings in seven countries. The son spent his early childhood in France and England, in exclusive Roman Catholic schools.
His prominent family also included his brother James, who became a one-term senator from New York in the 1970s; his socialite wife, Pat, who died in April 2007; and their son, Christopher, a noted author and satirist ("Thank You for Smoking").
By my count, thread five.
U.S. President George W. Bush pays tribute to National Review Magazine and its founder William F. Buckley Jr. (L), in Washington, in this October 6, 2005 file photo. Conservative writer and commentator William F. Buckley has died at age 82, the New York Times reported on its Web site on Wednesday. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)
William F. Buckley Jr., the conservative pioneer and television 'Firing Line' host, smiles during an interview at his home in New York on July 20, 2004. Buckley died Wednesday morning, Feb. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
the first full non-excerpt wire piece tho. ;-)
We have his words, his writings, his speeches....and his wonderful legacy.
CNN just stated he died of emphysema.
He’s likely having a good long conversation with St. Peter, much to St. Peter’s pleasure, I am sure. ;-)
He will be missed as will his unique ability to provide insight on some complicated issues and people and do it gracefully and tastefully.
Surprising, for a radical lib democrat, like Dodd. His supporters on DU are probably jumping for joy.
Well said. The Earth’s loss is Heaven’s gain.
Things don't look really good for conservatism now. But compared to when he wrote "God and Man at Yale," we are light years further along--largely because of his efforts. He had the courage to stand up and be the ONLY non-big-government, non-Keynesian in the room and to do it with wit and charm. And, the courage to keep doing it for years on end.
On a personal note, I never met him. But we have mutual acquaintances. People who knew him well invariably described him as a gentleman and a devout Christian. He is undoubtedly sitting in a place of honor today. RIP, WFB, Jr.
Great Loss for Conservatives.
Liberals feared debating this man!
Of the Apostles, I think only Paul would be able to keep up. Peter would still be consulting his dictionary :)
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