What could they say of Bill Buckley, a polymath whose wit could be withering, whose prose was pellucid, and whose energy was seemingly inexhaustible? Bill's talents were so galvanic that they energized an entire movement, first among those who joined him at National Review -- James Burnham, Priscilla Buckley (Bill's sister and the magazine's managing editor), Frank Meyer, Wilmoore Kendall and Whittaker Chambers -- and then in concentric circles to include, I think it safe to assert, every important conservative thinker today. All owe Bill a huge intellectual debt, and many benefited from his generosity personally.
Bill nearly cornered the market on personality -- witty, dashing, handsome, gracious. Though serious about his work and the things he cherished -- his family, his country and his God -- he was gifted with lightheartedness about most everything else. There was nothing, nothing more satisfying than making Bill laugh. He would throw back his head and guffaw, and how his eyes would sparkle!
Bill was more than a hugely talented and magnetic person though. He was a man of character. He performed more acts of charity and kindness than any of us will ever know of, though through my close association with National Review over the years, I know of a few. Throughout his whirling and eventful life, he conducted himself as a gentleman -- something that seems to elude most public figures.
For me, he provided my first and most formative professional experience at National Review. Throughout my career, he offered help, advice and the occasional rebuke when I deserved it. Now that we see his life in full, we have even more reason to marvel and to honor him for what he was: a great man -- a once-in-a-century figure.
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