I first picked up a book of his, quite by accident, in the library in college. What I read was a pure symphony in prose, a seemingly endless love affair with language, with logic, with reason, and with freedom itself. I couldn’t put the book down. I couldn’t do my assignments either, as I kept wandering away from cursed Algebra and Biology books to revel in the mind of William F. Buckley Jr. I was hooked. “Firing Line”, the books, the debates, the newspaper columns, National Review … I devoured it all and never looked back.
It was five years ago today, while I was driving, that I learned he had passed away. To say that his influence on me as a writer and thinker was profound would be to sell short the whole concept of profundity. The man, who had the temerity to stand up to the encroachments of would-be masterminds in government and academia, lacerating their pomposity and obliviousness with wit, wisdom, and humor, was quite simply a giant among men. People in former Soviet dominions breathe the sweet air of freedom today, in part, because of Buckley’s devotion to the cause of human freedom. But despite all his accomplishments, his lasting legacy may be that, through his own example, he raised friendship to an art. I know this because a friend of his, our own Peter Robinson, has extended that legacy to this cantankerous little trucker from Louisiana. For Bill’s work, his example, and his tireless devotion to the Author of the freedoms he advanced, I will always be grateful and, yes, profoundly, moved.