Personal Reminiscences of the late William F. Buckley, Jr.

Posted: Mar 05, 2008 12:01 AM
Personal Reminiscences of the late William F. Buckley, Jr.

When a great leader passes away everyone who has met that leader has a story. Here is mine. A judge in my hometown, Richard G. Harvey, Jr., who was a strong conservative, in 1960 invited William F. Buckley, Jr., to his home. He invited yours truly and my mentor J. Frederic (Fritz) Rench and 50 of his other close friends to hear him give a talk. That was the first time I had met him. Next, a group of us were in Hong Kong and as it turned out were in the same hotel as Buckley. He graciously invited our delegation, one of whom was a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) leader, to his hotel suite. There were only about ten of us so this time I actually was able to speak directly with him. A few years later, the Washington Post ran a series of articles on the late Joe Coors and his conservative politics coming to Washington. I was his spokesman so I was widely quoted in the article. Not too long afterward I got a call from Buckley's office. The request was that I have dinner with him in New York. So I went to New York and met him at one of his favorite haunts. We had a very pleasant dinner. He wanted to know about everything we were doing in Washington. The meeting turned out to be beneficial from my point of view. I had not always been well treated by the National Review crowd. They took the view that because I had not consulted with them in helping to organize the Heritage Foundation, the Senate Steering Committee and the House Republican Study Committee, I must have believed that they had no legitimacy, since they had been there first.

After the meeting with Buckley, all of that changed. I must say that in the ensuing years few have been more decent and kind to yours truly than was Buckley. He had me on "Crossfire" a couple of times. That was an amazing experience. Buckley would sit on a small couch and the guest would sit in a chair facing him. As the interview progressed Buckley would slip further and further down so that by the end of the show he was almost on the floor. The program director kept pointing at me to look down, so although I was sitting up straight I had to be addressing this figure who was very near the ground.

Whenever I asked Bill Buckley to accept a speaking engagement, or to reply personally to someone who wrote him, or whatever, he always did his very best to accommodate. I did my best never to abuse the privilege. He was always kind enough to send to me his book on sailing the world with his son, his detective series, and the most unique book I think I ever received (simply a list of all of the guests who had appeared in the 23 years of "Firing Line"). Each had an inscription until more recently, when he simply wrote, "Dear Paul. Your Friend, Bill." Or at least that's what I think he wrote. Bill should have been a doctor, given his handwriting.

Yes, it was a great privilege to know someone who singlehandedly had changed history. It also was great to know an intellectual who understood and fought for the intrinsic value of the ancient Roman Catholic Liturgy. But what went over the top was the fact that William F. Buckley, Jr. for all of his patrician background, was a genuine, kind and decent nice guy. May he rest in a place where there is no pain, nor grief nor sighing, but only life everlasting. Memory Eternal!