During this week when we honor our departed President George H. W. Bush and pause to remark on his service and patriotism, along with the “comity” he brought to politics during his four-year term, it would be well to honor another leader, partly for the comity that he too brought to his service.
That individual is former U.S. senator James L. Buckley.
A Yale contemporary of the former president and a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, Buckley is remembered by conservatives for his principled voting record in the Senate and his leadership in resisting Soviet adventurism, restraining federal spending, and supporting law enforcement, along with his proper skepticism about calls to expand government.
But Jim Buckley’s career embraces much more than his distinguished term in the Senate. In fact, Buckley is perhaps the only living American to have served in the upper levels of all three branches of the U.S. government. Aside from his election to the U.S. Senate, Buckley was Under Secretary of State, after which he served as president of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Then he was appointed by President Reagan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — generally held to be the second-highest court in our judicial system.
Nature lovers should also cheer with overdue recognition for Jim Buckley. His Senate years were marked by solid support for environmental conservation, especially his co-sponsorship of S.1192, which created the Gateway National Recreation Area, which stretches along our Atlantic coast from New York into New Jersey. The senator spoke on behalf of the bill on the Senate floor in 1972 and specifically mentioned the “wildlife preserve” during floor debate. Gateway contains the only wildlife refuge that is in the National Park System, as opposed to being under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Within it is “one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeast United States,” according to the refuge’s website. Senator Buckley is an amateur ornithologist of some note, and at age 95, he maintains his interest in birds.
How should we recognize Judge and Senator James Buckley appropriately? Representative Dan Donovan (R.-C., N.Y.) has filed H.R. 7125, a bill to rename the Staten Island portions of the Gateway National Recreation Area as the James L. Buckley National Seashore.
All of New York’s U.S. senators who took office in the last 60 years (except for Hillary Clinton and the two current incumbents) have had major public works named for them. Senator Daniel Moynihan has a huge Manhattan federal office building named for him, and the new Penn Station will be called Moynihan Station. The city’s other immense federal building bears Senator Jacob Javits’s name, as does the city’s primary convention center. Senator Alfonse D’Amato has a federal courthouse on Long Island, and the federal building in Rochester honors former Senator Kenneth Keating. A number of schools bear the name of Robert F. Kennedy, along with the renamed Triboro Bridge. Even appointed senator Charles Goodell’s name adorns the Fire Department headquarters in his former congressional district in western New York.
Clearly, it is time to honor and recognize the contributions of James L. Buckley to his nation.
Because of Senator Buckley’s leadership on conservative and constitutional principles, along with his advocacy for the Gateway National Recreation Area and other environmental concerns, this would be an ideal opportunity to salute him by renaming a stretch of our Atlantic coast the James L. Buckley National Seashore. As we bid farewell to our departed 94-year-old former president, let’s also thank our living 95-year-old former senator and judge, acknowledging both for the comity they brought to public life.