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Five Years Ago Today

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.  

  1. Mike LaRoche

    Bill Buckley’s grandfather was the sheriff of Duval County here in Texas, right next to the county where I was born and raised: Webb.

    God bless Texas. :-)

  2. Crow

    My debt to Bill Buckley–a man I never met–is, I fear, more than I can express even at length, never mind in so short a space as 200 words. We rightly remember him as one of the skilled pilots with his firm hands on the rudder of conservatism during the greater part of the 20th century.

    Buckley was urbane without false sophistication, ebullient but disciplined, quick-witted and quick to laugh with the high laughter of a prankish warrior, and a lover of the agora of argument where he held forth firmly but not without charity, unyielding yet humane.

    All the while, mind you, he wielded a razor sharp pen–

    Take this, to a CBS news representative, from Cancel Your Own Goddamned Subscription:

    “Oooo, Dear Eric, I fear that in that protracted tug-of-war between yourself and a terminal stuffiness, you have, finally, lost. And that is everybody’s business.”

    Or, in response to Arthur Schlesinger Jr:

    The reason I did not publish your reply to my original letter is that I thought it embarrasingly feeble…Meanwhile, I beg you, visit not your wit on me. Manifestly, it hurts you more than it hurts me.

  3. KC Mulville

    Can you imagine …

    a Buckley post …

    on Ricochet …

    and he stayed to bat it around with us?

  4. Dave Carter
    C
    KC Mulville: Can you imagine …

    a Buckley post …

    on Ricochet …

    and he stayed to bat it around with us? · 0 minutes ago

    Pure joy unconfined.  

  5. KayBee

    I always read my National Review from back to front, and five years later I still turn the page from Steyn’s column expecting to read WFB. 

  6. Doug Kimball

    His niece was a schoolmate, very bright and studious.  She went to Wesleyan in CT,  not Yale.   (Her younger brother went to Yale a few years later.)   I was young and oblivious, but heard a little about her famous uncle.  Like you, I discovered his work somewhat later, during the Reagan years.  I was quickly hooked.  In fact, I reread “God and Man” last year and it is amazing how prescient it was (or how so very little has really changed.)  We miss the sheer power and joy of his intellect and the respect and confidence it brought to our cause.  He led the fight and defined us.   Without his strong hand, conservatism seems to be drifting once again.  The Tea Party is quick to lose patience.  Libertarians drift into the rarified air of their own  theories.  Republicans seek love where it will never exist.  The answers are obvious, but no one sees them.  WFB knew where to focus.  He is sorely missd.

  7. EThompson

    Firing Line avec Bach Concerto #2 … what an irresistible combination!

    I will forever remember my father explaining to a grade-schooler why it was important to read/listen to WFB: “His command of the English language is a rare and unusual gift. Plus, he truly is most accomplished in taking down an ignoramus. ”

  8. Nanda Panjandrum

    In the mid-70s, I was the only student who checked NR out of my high school’s library – and watched “Firing Line” every Friday evening…Well and truly hooked…Thanks be for Uncommon Knowledge and Ricochet.

  9. Percival

    I first came across Mr. Buckley on Firing Line, when I was in junior high.  I was confused at first.  I couldn’t make out what language he was speaking.  It seemed very like English, but he would lob out a word like “circumlocution” or “vituperative” or “omnibus” that would have me scrambling for the dictionary.

    What he was going on about remained a mystery until high school, during my proto-Bolshevik phase.  Then I tuned in to mock (and to pick up new words), but his logic was impeccable, unlike some of his guests.  That and the utter failure that was the Carter presidency slowly but surely let the air out of the Left for me.  Some time during college a stray copy of National Review crossed my path, and I discovered I was a conservative after all.

  10. flownover

    I used to observe Buckley in the summertime and I wracked my brain to figure out what to ask him if I ever screwed up the courage to even ask.

    Never got there. Would it have been about Blacky, or Jimmuh , or the harpsichord, sailing, Barry Goldwater, the future or the end of the world ?

    Tongue tied from a distance, I missed the chance then and rue it forever.

    His heritage is great conservative journalism. 

    Let us turn to another fallen comrade . Breitbart Lives !

  11. Julia LaPlante

    It’s 1976 and I’m sitting in a grungy basement apartment, my two children asleep.  Totally adrift spiritually after leaving a ten-year marriage — I could no longer do the tight-wire act:  the straight wife providing cover.  The second time in my life I wondered if God existed.  I turned the TV on and there was William Buckley interviewing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — I was stunned (sent for the transcript).  A whole new world opened up for me…

    A faithful NR subscriber (and now Ricochet!)

  12. Larry Koler

    I hope everyone can read Larry Perelman’s article at National Review. Title: “In WFB’s Footsteps” and in it he publishes for the first time something about what it was like 5 years ago to be in the house, early in the morning, and preparing for a piano concert, when WFB died. He waited to publish this out of respect for the family. It’s really a very sweet set of memories that he shares with us.Buckley-in-his-Office.jpg

    William F. Buckley, Jr., the great educator.

    During the 1980 election season I found myself moving to the right and thinking about voting for Reagan. The great debate between him and Carter finally did the trick. From that moment on I wanted to learn more about politics and to figure out what the conservatives had to offer. Mr. Buckley’s columns are what affected me the most: he gave me access to difficult and complicated political issues. I did have to use a dictionary sometimes but his explanations were crystal clear. It was his teaching ability that made him the great columnist that he was. 

  13. Jimmy Carter

    I grew up alone really. Never made Friends and Family had no interest in what I was interested in.

    In elementary school, fourth or fifth grade, I was in the library looking for something new to read when I felt Someone looking at Me. I turned around and across the room was President Reagan. I went over and snatched the magazine off the shelf and read it cover to cover. It was truly an amazing feeling; finding Others in the world just like Me.

    To this day, as some could attest, I end My correspondence with “Cordially” in honor of Mr. Buckley’s entertaining Notes & Asides.

  14. dittoheadadt

    My yearlong tribute:

    wfbjrip2.jpg

  15. Dave Carter
    C
    dittoheadadt: My yearlong tribute: · 3 hours ago

    Awesome!

  16. David Preston

    I named my son William F. Preston.

  17. Dave Carter
    C

    Very nice!

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