Not quite 50 years ago, William F. Buckley Jr. founded National Review, which joined HUMAN EVENTS (now celebrating its 60th anniversary) as one of two national conservative periodicals. Last week, at a private dinner in New York, Buckley relinquished his ownership of NR to a handpicked board of trustees.
“The question is choose some point to quit or die onstage,” Buckley said, explaining his decision to the New York Times. “Thought was given and plans were made to proceed with divestiture.”
Buckley first leapt to prominence as a conservative writer and thinker in 1951, when Henry Regnery Company published his first book, God and Man at Yale. As it happens, this book was presaged by an article he had written for the May 16, 1951, issue of HUMAN EVENTS titled “Harvard Hogs the Headlines.” In God and Man at Yale, Buckley had the audacity to assert that he was a believing Christian and capitalist, and to advance his conviction that it was Yale’s duty to attempt to nurture a belief in God and free enterprise in its students.
“I contended that the trustees of Yale, along with the vast majority of the alumni, are committed to the desirability of fostering both a belief in God, and a recognition of the merits of our economic system,” wrote Buckley. “I therefore concluded that as our educational overseers, it was the clear responsibility of the trustees to guide the teaching at Yale toward those ends.
“The reaction to this point of view,” he dryly noted, “has been violent.”
National Review was generously endowed with Buckley’s own wit and audacity, and had an immediate impact on the fledgling conservative movement, and on the intellectual life of the nation. Under his leadership it worked to define the threat of Soviet communism, and helped propel Barry Goldwater to the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, and Ronald Reagan to the presidency of the United States in 1980.
Buckley–who in 2002 was awarded the Phillips Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in journalism–inspired more than one generation of rising conservative writers, activists and politicians with his writings, speeches and “Firing Line” television programs during his five decades at NR. The magazine will continue to publish his column.
Buckley announced that NR President Thomas L. Rhodes would become chairman of the magazine’s board of trustees. The other trustees are Buckley’s son, author Christopher Buckley, former Ambassador Evan Galbraith, former Federal Trade Commission Chairman Daniel Oliver, and 2000 Yale graduate Austin Bramwell, who is an NR contributor. Rich Lowry will remain the editor of National Review, and Edward W. Capano, who has been associated with the magazine since 1960, has been named Chief Executive Officer.