You’d never know it by reading National Review today, but that conservative magazine used to be an important, interesting and intellectual journal. That’s because William F. Buckley Jr., who died early this morning at the ripe old age of 82, was a hell of a writer (but a crappy novelist). He also had famous eyebrows, as the New York Times notes in its obituary.
Buckley was born into abject poverty way back in 1925. Ha ha, just kidding. He was born rich, lived rich and died rich. Little Bill Buckley was born in Manhattan, spoke Spanish and French before English, and went to grade school in Paris and London — in other words, totally liberal — before eventually winding up as an Army officer and Skull & Bones guy at Yale and CIA agent, working for E. Howard Hunt in Mexico City.
He was a man of fine character, and nothing proved that more than the fact that Ayn Rand would melodramatically stomp out of the room if she saw Buckley. When he ran for mayor of New York City in the mid-1960s, his conservative platform included traffic fees for cars and bike lanes throughout Manhattan.
Your editor remembers Buckley as one of the most entertaining talk show guests of the 1970s and early 1980s, always on programs such as Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and his own Firing Line, which makes today’s political talk shows look like security-camera video of a special-ed playground.
He had majestic feuds with the likes of Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, John Lindsey, the John Birch Society, and finally his own Republican Party.
Buckley reportedly died at his desk in his study, in Stamford, Connecticut.
William F. Buckley is dead at 82 [New York Times]