William F. Buckley: What about the man?

William F. Buckley at work.
William F. Buckley at work.

WHY WOULD PEOPLE who consider themselves to be a liberal, or progressive, or democrat be interested in William F. Buckley, Jr.?  Remember the old adage to “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”  This reviewer has always felt that the free enterprise system and limited government in our daily lives have served the country well.  My parents felt that way and it has always seemed so logical.  In fact, for a naïve young man growing up in the Deep South, it seemed so logical that I often wondered why everyone didn’t feel that way.

I began to read and study about those who didn’t.  It’s helpful to at least understand why others disagree and how those opposing thought processes evolved.  In today’s culture of cut-throat verbal and written attacks, name calling, and near slanderous jabs at ideological adversaries, it could serve us well to learn more about the other side and at least address our differences with civility and grace.  As easy as it may sound, even Buckley sometimes strayed and got into shouting matches. (One such event was an oft-cited exchange with author/commentator Gore Vidal.)

550651_w185If we are known by the company we keep, consider just a few of William F. Buckley’s list of friends, enemies, and interviewees: Ronald Reagan, E. Howard Hunt, Ayn Rand, Billy Graham, Gore Vidal, Hugh Hefner, Joseph McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, Garry Wills, William Rusher, the Kennedys, Yale, and Skull and Bones.  Included in the original cast of characters at the National Review were:  two former Communists (one of whom was a spy), a former Yale debate partner, two former CIA agents (as was Buckley), a former Jesuit seminarian, and a tireless promoter, publisher, and conservative activist (not Buckley).  In a move that surprised fellow right-wingers, Buckley not only was interviewed by Playboy, but wrote for them as well.  In return, he interviewed Hefner on Firing Line.  Politics does make strange bedfellows!

In William Buckley, Author Jeremy Lott has collected and condensed a wealth of information in a short (152 pages), easy to read book about the man many consider to be the father of the contemporary conservative movement in America.  Lott, an editor at Real Clear Politics and Capital Research Center offers readers a thorough overview of Buckley’s life and times with sufficient detail as to provide appealing insight.  We want to find out more about this man and Lott offers plenty of references and suggestions.  Appendix One is titled, “Recommended Reading” and is Lott’s suggestions as to how to approach the many books, articles, and biographical writings of, about, and by William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925 – 2008). Detailed notes with bibliographical references follows although we would have preferred to have seen an index included as well.

Lott contends that Buckley was motivated (driven, in fact) by his faith.  Buckley was Roman Catholic and had Irish-Protestant roots.  During his stint in the military, he served in the honor guard at FDR’s funeral and, shortly after, enrolled at Yale.  Buckley: “I brought with me a firm belief in Christianity and a profound respect for American institutions and traditions.” Further, he felt that “free enterprise and limited government had served the country well and would probably continue to do so in the future.”  Another irony, is that someone with such conservative beliefs would come out of Yale.

William F. Buckley by Jeremy Lott is included in “Close Encounters of the Christian Kind”, a series of books about Christians published by Thomas Nelson.

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Please click the book cover image to read more about FCEtier and his novels.

 

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Chip: Buckley was an intriguing man. I met him once when he spoke to our journalism class at The University of Texas. He was a man of enormous words and wit, and he could mesmerize you when he talked. I didn’t know if I agreed with him then. I’m not for sure I understood what he said. But he said it so forcefully I was afraid not to believe it.

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