William F. Buckley, Jr. Retires
n 1954, when Ronald Reagan was still a registered Democrat and host of “General Electric Theater,” the 28-year-old William Frank Buckley Jr. decided to start a magazine as a standard-bearer for the fledgling conservative movement. In the 50-year ascent of the American right since then, his publication, National Review, has been its most influential journal and Mr. Buckley has been the magazine’s guiding spirit and, until today, controlling shareholder.
Tonight, however, Mr. Buckley, 78, is giving up control. In an interview, he said he planned to relinquish his shares today to a board of trustees he had selected. Among them are his son, the humorist Christopher Buckley; the magazine’s president, Thomas L. Rhodes; and Austin Bramwell, a 2000 graduate of Yale and one of the magazine’s youngest current contributors.
Mr. Buckley’s “divestiture,” as he calls it, represents the exit of one of the forefathers of modern conservatism. It is also the latest step in the gradual quieting of one of the most distinctive voices in the business of cultural and political commentary, the writer and editor who founded his magazine on a promise 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.”
With characteristic playfulness, Mr. Buckley said that he had not disclosed the timing of the hand-over.
Mr. Buckley, whose syndicated column will continue to appear in the magazine, said he did not expect changes in the contents of the magazine.
It has been some time since Buckley occupied center stage in the movement he founded. Indeed, National Review has been overtaken by The Weekly Standard in influence even among narrowly targeted conservative opinion journals. I subscribed to TNR for years but finally grew tired of the obsequious drifts into Latin and the apparent assumption that conservatives are all Old Money Catholics in their seventies. Still, Buckley’s writing voice is unique and still manages to surprise on occasion.