Missing WFB
His friends remember him on his birthday.


This weekend would have marked William F. Buckley Jr.’s 88th birthday. What do you miss most about NR’s founder? We asked some friends.

Lee Edwards
I once described Bill Buckley as “incandescent,” but on reflection I realize that he was more of a North Star for the conservative movement. He was always there with a thoughtful column or editorial or Firing Line on the issue of the day, always available to speak at a conference or rally, always ready with a quip or a smile when you met him, always open to the work of the youngest and untried, always convinced and convincing that it was to conservative minds that the nation and the people would turn sooner or later. Do I miss him? As much as anyone I have known in my entire life.

Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation, is author of William F. Buckley: The Maker of a Movement.

Ed Feulner
Remembering Bill Buckley on his 88th birthday is to remember modern conservatism’s stellar leader, entrepreneur, and inspiration.

Bill was an entrepreneur whenever he needed to be, and more often than most of us realized: Starting National Review when it was not only “politically incorrect” but intellectually inconceivable, since, we were told, conservatives didn’t have enough ideas to fill one issue of a magazine, let alone one that would presume to a regular publishing schedule. An entrepreneur who conceptualized and hosted his own long-running television series with intelligent discourse, not shouting at the other guy across a table. An entrepreneur who put up the first $100 seed capital to fund another conservative start-up with Milton Friedman, Don Lipsett, and me — the Philadelphia Society — which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next April.

He was an inspiration: hosting the younger generation and the Sharon Statement, challenging future generations to think clearly, dream big, and take on challenges.

When we were down, we knew he could cheer us up, and tell us what was really impossible, but worth doing nonetheless — Bill Buckley for mayor of New York City? Impossible, but inspiring, paving the way for the election of his brother Jim to the U.S. Senate, and for intermittently good government in the city.

“So, Ed, if you want to start a new conservative think tank in Washington, go for it, and I’ll help you any way I can!” A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of WFB and the seeds he planted to make an impact for the ideas we believe in.

For me, William F. Buckley Jr. will always retain his primary title: the inspiration of the modern conservative movement.


Ed Feulner is the former longtime president of the Heritage Foundation.

William F. Gavin
I guess more than anything I miss his temperament, that magic combination of poise, equanimity, good will, good humor, and kindness that graced everything he did. His brother Jim has the same gift. There are too many people today calling themselves conservatives whose approach to issues is to scare the living hell out of people. William Blake (or somebody) once wrote, “Mercy has a human heart, pity has a human face.” Bill’s “human face” was there in all his debates and all his writings. He presented conservatism as it should be presented: not as a narrow ideological creed filled with anger and bitterness but as a thoughtful, reasonable way of looking at the world (which, of course, is exactly what conservatism is). Ronald Reagan had a similar gift. What we need is a rebirth of that kind of conservatism, one that is constantly being surprised — and surprising others — by joy.

— William F. Gavin is author of Speechwright and a former assistant to Senator James L. Buckley.

Eric Metaxas
That it’s as painful as joyful to think of what one misses about WFB speaks for itself. Like a strong father, he seemed to inspire confidence in his very being; that he was simply among us and seemingly indefatigable amidst the battles and uglinesses of modern life made it certain that there was yet hope and beauty, that the slide toward the abyss not only might be arrested but would, and must. His unassuming boldness in bringing such unapologetically Christian figures as Malcolm Muggeridge to television audiences. The uniquely Americanized plumminess of his voice — those pronunciations that resurrected a fabled era of which he seemed the sole survivor: how “word” came out as a drawn-out “wood,” and how, as he spoke, one nearly beheld the tarnished silver of a silent butler. In debate, the lupine grin as he eyed his prey; the half-orchestrated facial quirks and tics that visually punctuated his baroque sentences; and how when he used them he didn’t give a sou whether one knew the meaning of such words as “lapidary” or “solecism,” or such phrases as “tu quoque.” To go on could break one’s heart. That he is indeed not dead, but in the realm of the resurrected, is our only but very real consolation, and that we have the faith to believe that — to know it — is owed, in part, to his happy and heroic years among us this side of the veil. Selah.

— Eric Metaxas is author of Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.

Remembering WFB
National Review's founding father and longtime editor, William F. Buckley Jr., was a prolific author and syndicated columnist; the frequently imitated but inimitable host of Firing Line; an indefatigable public speaker; and sailor, skier, and joyous friend to uncounted numbers of people. Herewith, a selection of photos chronicling a fraction of his activities over 58 years. -- Linda Bridges
WFB on the lawn at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, with the Long Island Sound in the background, c. 1985. An interviewer once asked: If you could live anywhere in the world that you wanted, where would you live? And he answered: “Where I live.”
A typical Firing Line dilemma: Which error shall I nail first?
On WFB’s wedding day, July 6, 1950, with WFB Sr.
Some five years later, with his son, Christopher
Bill with seven of his nine siblings, and spouses, c. 1958, in the patio at the Buckley family home, Great Elm, in Sharon, Connecticut.
At sister Priscilla’s 40th birthday party, in 1961, at the Unon League Club in New York. Left to right: Pat, National Review associate publisher Jim McFadden, Bill, sister Maureen (who had been an NR staffer in the early days), conservative impresario Marvin Liebman
Bill and Pat at the maisonette on 73rd Street, c. 1970. See Lawrence Perelman’s article “In WFB's Footsteps” for more on the Bösendorfer piano. The dog is a Pekinese, Horrible Foo.
Touch football at Great Elm, Thanksgiving weekend, c. 1971. Bill and Priscilla with numerous nieces and nephews
With Christopher on Cyrano, c. 1976
Skiing with friends in Gstaad, Switzerland, during the annual book-writing sojourn, c. 1980
More skiing buddies: With Lawry Chickering and Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman at Alta, Utah, c. 1979
With skiing buddy and political adversary John Kenneth Galbraith in Gstaad, c. 1984
Celebrating an early jape at National Review, in the first, cramped offices on 37th Street, 1957.  Left to right:  Priscilla, managing editor Suzanne LaFollette, senior editor James Burnham, Arthur the donkey, senior editor Willmoore Kendall, Bill
A bright idea has just struck! WFB in his office at 150 East 35th Street, c. 1969, in front of the wall of photos, fan mail, and hate mail
One way of getting to work: WFB riding down Park Avenue on his beloved Honda, c. 1970
A more conventional way of travelling: In the limousine, with Rowley, the Buckleys' first of many Cavalier King Charles spaniels, on his favorite perch in back, c. 1975
Editorial conference, Tuesday morning, c. 1973, in the conference room; WFB flanked by Jim Burnham and Priscilla
Editorial Wednesday is heating up at 150 East 35th, c. 1975.  Note Royal typewriter (pre computers), and, to right, a gift from a fan: a flag-waving device called the triple bifurcated chauvinator
Sometimes the press of work gets out of hand, c. 1976
But usually there's time to greet a visitor, c. 1980
A characteristic pose while breaking for a phone call, c. 1977
Dinner on an editorial-Tuesday evening, c. 1989, with Jim McFadden and new editor John O’Sullivan, at WFB's favorite restaurant, Nicola Paone (of blessed memory)
A debate during WFB’s “paradigmatic” mayoral race, 1965. He is less than thrilled by the debating style of his opponents, Democrat Abe Beame and liberal Republican John Lindsay.
A more festive campaign picture
The famous (infamous?) debate with Gore Vidal during the 1968 presidential campaign
At a Hollywood political event c. 1975, laughing with Hollywood maverick Morrie Ryskind, one of the magazine’s early backers and a contributor to the very first issue of the magazine.
With Ronald Reagan and National Review publisher Bill Rusher before NR’s 20th-anniversary dinner at the Plaza Hotel in New York, November 17, 1975
The famous Firing Line Panama Canal debate, January 13, 1978, in Columbia, S.C. As Bill later put it, "I won the debate, Ronald Reagan won the presidency."
Greeting Pope John Paul II, with David Niven and Malcolm Muggeridge, 1980.
El Presidente greets his old friend after toasting the magazine at a party celebrating the opening of NR’s new Washington office, March 20, 1983. In background, left to right: Rick Brookhiser, Priscilla Buckley, Joe Sobran, Jeff Hart
At NR's 30th-anniversary party, October 22, 1985, again at the Plaza; principal speaker: President Reagan. Left to right: George Will, Nancy Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, and WFB
Receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Bush, with Barbara Bush looking on, November 18, 1991.
On the ketch Sealestial, in mid-Atlantic, 1980
Ave atque vale
Updated: Nov. 24, 2013



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