William F. Buckley, Jr., RIP

Kathryn Jean Lopez has the sad news that “William F. Buckley Jr., died overnight in his study in Stamford, Connecticut. After year of illness, he died while at work.”

Sad news, indeed.

William F. Buckley, Jr., RIP William F. Buckley, Jr. arrives at Washington National Cathedral to attend the funeral service for former President Ronald Reaganon June 11, 2004 in Washington. Buckley died Wednesday morning, Feb. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, pool) More from AP:

Author and conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. has died at age 82.

His assistant Linda Bridges says Buckley died Wednesday morning at his home in Stamford, Conn. She says he had been ill with emphysema and was found dead by his cook.

Buckley became famous for his intellectual political writings in his magazine, the National Review, and his frequent television appearances, including on his own long-running “Firing Line.”

I grew up on “Firing Line” and read National Review for years until finally tiring of the magazine’s stilted style and assumption that I was an old money Catholic who spoke Latin fluently. I even read and enjoyed Buckley’s Blackford Oakes spy novels. His recent autobiography, Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography, was also well worth a read.

Buckley’s intellectual leadership, judgment, and tone were cornerstones in building the modern conservative movement. His good sense in denouncing the John Birchers and distancing himself from the excesses of Pat Buchanan and others earned him respect on both sides of the aisle.

UPDATE: The New York Times, which presumably keeps obits ready in circumstances like these, has the first long form report I’ve seen.

William F. Buckley, Jr. Dead at 82 William F. Buckley Jr. in his office at the National Review in 1965.

William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn.

Mr Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, his son Christopher said, although the exact cause of death was not immediately known. He was found at his desk in the study of his home, his son said. “He might have been working on a column,” Mr. Buckley said.

Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, National Review. He also found time to write more than 45 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and edit five more. The more than 4.5 million words of his 5,600 biweekly newspaper columns, “On the Right,” would fill 45 more medium-sized books.

Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism — not just electoral Republicanism, but conservatism as a system of ideas — respectable in liberal post-World War II America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and saw his dreams fulfilled when Reagan and the Bushes captured the Oval Office. To Mr. Buckley’s enormous delight, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the historian, termed him “the scourge of liberalism.”

In remarks at National Review’s 30th anniversary in 1985, President Reagan joked that he picked up his first issue of the magazine in a plain brown wrapper and still anxiously awaited his biweekly edition — “without the wrapper.” “You didn’t just part the Red Sea — you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism,” Mr. Reagan said. “And then, as if that weren’t enough,” the president continued, “you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.”

Much more at the link.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. A force has left the building.

  2. Tlaloc says:

    Poor Buckley. I had no love for the guy’s legacy, but it really seemed like the last few years took a toll on him. It must have been hard to see his life’s work get hijacked and his own name used to countenance things he abhorred.

    It really is a pity that’s how his last years were spent.

  3. floyd says:

    Lost, but never forgotten!
    Mr. Buckley was a man of little fear and great clarity.
    He said what he said.
    It made a difference.
    Ultimately, he had a right to be satisfied with his contribution.

  4. bill t says:

    Mr Buckley ALWAYS raised the level of discourse whether you agreed with him or he with you. His passing is a metaphor for the loss of civil discourse and intellectual discipline of the various subsets of our media.

  5. Derrick says:

    While I probably disagreed with probably 80% of his work, as I’ve become more familiar with his work, I’ve definitely come to respect WFB’s considerable and extraordinary contribution to society. Watching old scenes of him debating others in such a honorable and intellectually honest way is extremely refreshing compared to the discourse of the day. It’s too bad that he’s seen his ideology and practice so distorted by his ideological progeny over the last years. R.I.P.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Buckley was always worth reading, both his political writings and the Blackford Oakes books. He also had an appealing zest for life. He will be missed…

  7. Virg says:

    Wonkette nailed it with this headline: Elegant, Witty Conservative Writer William F. Buckley Jr. Dies, Leaving No Intellectual Heirs

  8. Brent says:

    “and assumption that I was an old money Catholic who spoke Latin fluently” — Funny, I always took that assumption as one that I was a moderately well educated adult.

  9. psmarc93 says:

    Buckley is the paragon example of all that Conservatism hoped to be and the mark of how fantastically far it has failed to meet his standards. Beginning with Reagan, Conservatives reduced their weapons from argumentation and debate to the troglodyte tools of ad hominem and smear — that Buckley was the first to condemn this de-evolution does not exonerate him for not seeing that the fault lies within the corrupt soul of Conservativism itself — the souless credo of “I’ve got mine, screw you,” and “Might makes right.”

  10. James Joyner says:

    “and assumption that I was an old money Catholic who spoke Latin fluently” — Funny, I always took that assumption as one that I was a moderately well educated adult.

    Unless you are of a certain age or went to old line Catholic school, it’s quite unlikely that you speak Latin even if you’re a Harvard PhD. It’s a dead language and the need to learn it is rather dubious; indeed, even most Catholic schools don’t bother teaching it now that mass is in English.

  11. Bandit says:

    Like the sun rising in the East count on the losers of the left using the death of an ideological rival to spew their customary hate.

  12. floyd says:

    psmarc93;
    To err is human , but you have raised it to an art form. You are truly peerless, congratulations!

  13. floyd says:

    “”Wonkette nailed it with this headline: Elegant, Witty Conservative Writer William F. Buckley Jr. Dies, Leaving No Intellectual Heirs””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Virg;
    Sadly this is probably true, considering the “Children of the Corn” mentality of current academia, along with it’s obsequious cousin, the media.
    No “Intellectual Heir” would be allowed to come to term in the adulterated womb of a modern university.

  14. Lyn says:

    Mr. Buckley was in a class by himself. I appreciate how he elevated and motivated conservatives. The thing I like most about him is that he was successful and proud and didn’t apologize for being either.