The cause of freedom suffered an irreplaceable loss when National Review founder and intellectual decathlete William F. Buckley passed away at 82 on February 27. Mr. Buckley’s prodigious accomplishments are well known to PRI supporters, and in December, 2000, he teamed with Milton Friedman as keynote speaker for PRI’s gala dinner.
PRI board member Daniel Oliver, my husband Charles Kesler, and I visited Bill a month ago at his home in Stamford.
Charles offers an account of our stay:
I transcribed what I think may have been Bill’s final column. He had fallen the day before and broken a bone in his right wrist, making typing impossible, but he was determined to file his column, which concerned the previous night’s Democratic presidential debate. As was his wont, he had eaten a very early breakfast and was already in his study in the garage when the three of us were taking breakfast in the dining room. In walked Julian, his talented chef, who said that Mr. Buckley was on the phone for me and said it was an emergency. That theatrical touch was very Bill. He explained that he couldn’t type and needed to dictate his column to someone, i.e., me. I of course was delighted to help, and over the next hour or so took down his words.
The scene was slightly surreal, but it was an adventure and we were having fun. The gift of turning life into adventure was one of his charms, which helped attract young and old alike, but particularly the young, to his side. By merrily refuting liberalism, he gave birth to a conservatism, shaped in his own image, that avoided the drearily doctrinaire. In his study, at 82, he was still the consummate journalist.
He had the outlines of the column in his mind as he began to dictate. He had already selected the passage from Fowler’s great Modern English Usage that he wanted to drop into the piece. And like a true professional, he stopped from time to time to ask how many words he had excogitated on the page. He wasn’t going to supply one more than he needed.
When we had finished, he toddled happily off to lunch, where the four of us discussed the sorry state of politics and the progress he was making on his next book, his fifty-fourth I believe, that he had agreed to call, The Reagan I Knew.
His wrist was broken, his emphysema bad, Pat’s death weighed heavily on him – but still visible was the Bill of old. He knew now the weariness that Whittaker Chambers had warned him of decades before. But he did not despair.
The Pacific Research Institute pays tribute to this champion of freedom who fought the good fight.
Sally C. Pipes
President and CEO