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Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley, the father of the Modern Conservative Movement Dies

William F. Buckley, Jr., journalist, talk show host and the father of modern conservatism dies at 82. Here's more on the story, courtesy of the LA Times:

Buckley, who had been ill with emphysema, died while at work in his study in Stamford, Conn., according to Richard Lowry, the editor of National Review, the magazine Buckley founded in 1955.

An urbane pundit with a lacerating wit, Buckley was the intellectual heart of American political conservatism in the 1960s and '70s. His ardent friends and admirers came to include a California governor, Ronald Reagan, who sought Buckley's counsel frequently during his campaign and presidency, calling him "perhaps the most influential journalist and intellectual in our era." Buckley also inspired generations of conservatives, who now fill think tanks and write for National Review, the Weekly Standard and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

"It's not lonely the way it was 45 years ago," Buckley said in an interview with The Times a few years ago, "when there was really nothing, certainly no journal of opinion on conservative thought. There are tons of people here now."

"Without Bill, there'd be no conservatism as we know it today," said Lowry. "One of his earliest achievements was to forge this coalition of social conservatives, national security hawks and economic libertarians. That became the conservative coalition, and there would not be one today without it."

Buckley was a fierce debater who loved trading savagely lyrical put-downs with his political opponents. But, unlike the conservative pundits who drive talk radio today, he had many personal friends and admirers among his public foes, including such luminaries as the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith and late writer Norman Mailer. Some of his political opponents, though, had trouble reconciling the two Buckleys -- the irresistibly charming raconteur and the talk show host who drew exquisite rhetorical nooses around the necks of his opponents. "You can't stay mad at a guy who's witty, spontaneous and likes good liquor," Mailer once said.

During his life, Buckley was a prodigious speaker and writer with an extensive vocabulary of multisyllabic words that he wasn't afraid to use and that invited much good-natured ribbing from friend and foe. Samuel Vaughan, his editor, once said that Buckley's use of language elicits "both exasperation and admiration."

He gave thousands of speeches across the country, using the proceeds to keep his beloved National Review afloat. And he wrote or co-wrote more than 50 books, often during his winter vacation near Gstaad, Switzerland. The eclectic list includes "Cruising Speed," a documentary of a week in his life; lyrical memoirs of sailing journeys; and the Blackford Oakes series of spy novels.

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William F. Buckley Jr., dies at 82

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