William F Buckley, a giant among political pundits and the man who gave modern conservatism its intellectual foundation, died today at age 82. Fittingly, he died at his desk, probably working on his next column, as his son said in his announcement (via Hot Air):
William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn.
Mr Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, his son Christopher said, although the exact cause of death was not immediately known. He was found at his desk in the study of his home, his son said. “He might have been working on a column,” Mr. Buckley said.
Mr. Buckley’s winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater’s, hosted one of television’s longest-running programs, “Firing Line,” and founded and shepherded the influential conservative magazine, National Review.
He also found time to write more than 45 books, ranging from sailing odysseys to spy novels to celebrations of his own dashing daily life, and edit five more.
The more than 4.5 million words of his 5,600 biweekly newspaper columns, “On the Right,” would fill 45 more medium-sized books.
Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism — not just electoral Republicanism, but conservatism as a system of ideas — respectable in liberal post-World War II America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and saw his dreams fulfilled when Reagan and the Bushes captured the Oval Office.
Conservatives of all stripes owe Buckley a great debt, and not just for his columns and books that provided a call to arms for individual liberty and property rights. He brought together the disparate factions of the Right into one umbrella and made conservatism a potent political force. His great legacy will be National Review, the magazine that served as the center of the movement, and to this day features vigorous debate among the various stripes of conservatives.
Buckley will be missed, but his work will remain as lively and vibrant as ever. Few men and women can claim that kind of intellectual achievement and impact on society. Godspeed, sir, and thank you.