It was the summer of ’86 and I had just finished my sophomore year of college. That was when I first “met” William F. Buckley, Jr. One of my best friends had invited me to his home and when I arrived he called me into his family’s living room where he was watching a television program. The first thing I remember was noticing some guy I had never seen before slouched in his chair holding what looked like a notebook and interviewing some other guy I had never seen before. It wasn’t riveting entertainment for someone who was looking for something a bit more exciting to do with his time.
My friend asked me if I had ever seen this show before. I quickly said that I hadn’t and so he began to share with me who Buckley was and what the program was about. We ended up watching the rest of it together.
Going through my high school and college years with Ronald Reagan in the White House was very formative for me. Now, through Buckley, I would begin getting to know and better understand many of the foundational principles that undergirded our president’s philosophy of governing.
Of course, I don’t want to sound like it was all about being intensely serious. The truth is, Buckley was just plain fun to watch. I grew to love his masterful use of the English language, watching his cross-examinations of his television guests, and laughing out loud at his many witticisms. I wanted more.
I eventually subscribed to National Review and then purchased my first book authored by Buckley, Right Reason. Every summer my friend and I would not only watch Firing Line together, but would also make sure to watch the special two-hour Firing Line debates. (Yes, I realize how much a “nerd light” this casts me in, but Lord help me, it was a good time that I treasured.)
I kept up with Buckley through seminary and after I graduated, in the Fall of 1992, I was finally able to meet my hero in person. He was speaking on behalf of a hospital here in Jacksonville. After he spoke there was a reception where I had the opportunity to introduce myself and get a picture with him.
It was sad news a couple of years ago when I learned of Buckley’s passing. Over the years I had grown to appreciate not only those things that appeal to a pompous young Republican, but those infinitely more important and lasting qualities such as his generosity, faith, and tireless efforts for all that he was committed to.
So why have I taken this walk down memory lane almost three years after his death? Because Fox News has been airing a six-part series on the history of the conservative movement in America, much of which has focused on Buckley. I’ve also been rereading Buckley’s Up From Liberalism. All of this created a desire within me to share a little about someone I consider worth remembering.
Below are a few of the better YouTube tributes to Buckley. Enjoy.
PS – Thanks E.K. I owe you.
PSS – Here’s a link to the original post that I wrote upon hearing of his death. It includes many links to articles, etc., by folk who actually knew him.
Grace and Truth,