William F. Buckley Jr., 82; author and founder of modern conservative movement

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

William F. Buckley Jr., the columnist, novelist, talk show host and tireless intellectual who founded the modern conservative movement and was its articulate voice for nearly six decades, died today. He was 82.

Buckley, who had been ill with emphysema, died while at work in his study in Stamford, Conn. In a commentary on the National Review website, the magazine he founded, Kathryn Jean Lopez said it was fitting that he died while working. “If he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.”

An urbane and charming pundit with a lacerating wit and intellect, Buckley was, virtually alone, the public face of American political conservatism in the 1960s and ‘70s. His ardent friends and admirers came to include a California governor, Ronald Reagan, who sought Buckley’s counsel frequently during his campaign and presidency, calling him “perhaps the most influential journalist and intellectual in our era.”


Buckley also inspired generations of conservatives, who now fill think tanks and write for National Review -- which he launched in 1955 -- and the Weekly Standard and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s not lonely the way it was 45 years ago,” Buckley said in an interview with The Times a few years ago, “when there was really nothing, certainly no journal of opinion on conservative thought. There are tons of people here now.”

Buckley was a fierce debater who loved trading lyrical put-downs with his political opponents. But, unlike some of the conservative pundits who drive talk radio today, he had many personal friends and admirers among his public foes, including such luminaries as the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith and the late author Norman Mailer.

Some of his political opponents, though, had trouble reconciling the two Buckleys: the irresistibly charming raconteur with the talk show host who drew exquisite rhetorical nooses around the necks of his opponents.

“You can’t stay mad at a guy who’s witty, spontaneous and likes good liquor,” Mailer once said.