William F. Buckley Jr., the father of modern conservatism died yesterday after living a very rich and productive life, influencing modern political thought, and setting the stage for the Reagan Revolution which saved this country from the years of Jimmy Carter.
Although I have never met the man, I do have stark memories of him throughout my childhood and since, as my father was a huge fan of Firing Line. As a child I hated it. My early memories of Buckley were of dread. I dreaded Sunday afternoons when my father would enter the family room and switch channels to PBS, and subject me to that dry, drab, and stuffy show. After that I would switch channels to 60 Minutes, a favorite of mine at the time. How things have changed.
When I was approaching 17, Buckley was featured on 60 Minutes (I nearly left the room, expecting a dry, drab, and stuffy interview when I saw it previewed), and much to my surprise...he was artfully clever, lively, quick witted, and funny. I think Morley Safer tried to strafe him but failed. Buckley impressed me then and thereafter. And even though I never quite got in the habit of watching Firing Line, I made a special point to catch him in several interviews, and even subscribed to National Review for a time.
I'll never forget one interview he did on Donahue back in that show's heyday. Phil Donahue tried a surprise attack in which he accused Buckley of being "owned by the military establishment." Buckley's response was calm but gravely cold. He glared at Donahue and said dismissively "No one owns me, Phil...only GOD owns me."
More recently I purchased Miles Gone By, his autobiography, in CD format. I strongly recommend this format because it is read aloud by Buckley himself, and you get every nuance from his voice inflection and tone. The only thing better would be a Buckley video of the same book.
Someone recently told me that Ann Coulter was banished from National Review. But that didn't stop her from writing a fine tribute to Buckley here.
May he rest in peace. And may the Buckley family be in our prayers.