We lost a fine and gracious man with the passing of James Q. Wilson, a towering intellect whose ideas touched so many of us, but also a wonderfully nuanced human being of truly unexpected interests – like sneaking off from meetings to go see action movies, (particularly if Bruce Willis was in them) since his wife Roberta had no taste for them when he was home.
We’d become close friends over 30+ years, me benefiting from his wisdom, faith, and encouragement, he getting the poor trade of me as his one “lay” reader of manuscripts to ensure they were accessible to non-academic mortals.
Jim was honored in December with a lifetime achievement award, and asked me to accept it on his behalf as he wasn’t well enough to travel. On the grounds that the poor folks who’d come to see him ought to at least get some words from him, I was able to eventually tease from him some reflections on his life, and they are the core of what I wrote for US News. I wrote it to share what he himself said, and to try to go beyond the litany of intellectual accomplishments. I hope you like it, and get a more complete sense of a wonderful man.
More importantly though, did he influence you too? How?