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Editor Reflects on Buckley’s Conservative Legacy

William F. Buckley, Jr. -- a commentator and author credited with helping found the modern American conservative movement -- died Wednesday at age 82. Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page editor, reflects on Buckley's legacy.

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    And finally tonight, remembering William F. Buckley, Jr. Jeffrey Brown has our Media Unit report.


    He was editor, columnist, television host, novelist, provocateur and more. But chiefly William F. Buckley, Jr., will be remembered as a key founder of the modern conservative movement in America.

    He was born into wealth in New York City in 1925 and attended Yale University, the subject of his 1951 book, "God and Man at Yale," which first brought him to public attention.

    In 1955, he founded National Review, the magazine that would become his chief platform for promoting conservative ideas and thinkers.

    In 2004, Buckley talked with the NewsHour's Terence Smith.

    WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR., founder, National Review: The conservatism that I identified myself with was anticommunist, antisocialist. And the principal lodestone of that was National Review magazine, which I founded and served as editor.

    Reagan said that he got his inspiration from National Review, you know, words I love to hear. I hope they survive this broadcast. And Goldwater said the same thing.

    So I acknowledge that while never forgetting to give primary credit to the wonderful people who came and wrote for it, you know, your scholars who had been itchy for a place to write when there wasn't a journal of opinion that was very hospitable to their thought, which was the case 50 years ago.


    Buckley was also well-known as the host of PBS's "Firing Line," which he hosted for 23 years, engaging, prodding, bantering with ideological friends and foes alike.

    A lifelong theme for Buckley was his Christianity and the role of religion in personal and public life. In 1997, he talked with David Gergen on the NewsHour about a book he'd written on the subject.

  • DAVID GERGEN, Former Presidential Adviser:

    How has your Christian belief influenced your views on conservatism?


    Well, it's made me right all the time.

    My conservative position is ultimately based on my conviction that the individual is supreme, that you can't mess with the individual. In this sense, I think Jesse — Martin Luther King said really the same thing.

    I quote Martin Luther King in this book. And I cite his evocation of Christianity as the source of his feeling that man should be free and go on to wonder why, where Martin Luther King is celebrated these days, but the Christian faith that inspired him is very widely neglected in the same places.


    Finally, there was Buckley the bon vivant, sailor, harpsichordist, and writer of spy novels. He wrote some 50 books in all and had this to say when asked how he did it.


    Well, the thing to do is to write one every year. I retreat to Switzerland every year and I divest myself to the extent possible of other distractions. And then I write 1,500 words a day. And that, oddly enough, adds up to a book.


    William F. Buckley, Jr., died this morning at his desk while working on a new book about Ronald Reagan. He was 82 years old.

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