In the summer of 1974 before I began college, I submitted an article to National Review, along with a cover note to Wlliam F. Buckley, Jr.
I cannot recall what the piece was about, and I suspect it wasn’t very good, but Buckley very quickly and unexpectedly sent me back a very kind and encouraging note, as well as the recommendation that I look up Charles Kesler when I got to school, as he too was about to begin his undergraduate studies and he too had corresponded with Buckley.
I did meet up with Charles and have remained friends through the next 30-plus years, but what I never forgot was Buckley’s example of graciousness that struck me as inspiring then and since. The exceptionally talented staff at NRO will be honoring WFB for the next few days, and the magazine he founded for as long as it is published (may it be centuries more) but my guess is that there are thousands and thousands of people who Buckley encouraged in a similar fashion that we won’t be hearing from, a silent legacy that is vast and enduring.
There may have been more influential conservative pundits and intellectuals over the past half century, though none come immediately to mind, and there may have been more accomplished interviewers and authors of such numerous, diverse and always interesting books, though, again, no names jump out.
But I don’t think there is anyone who combined accomplishments of this order with such widespread, genuine and deep affection across the center-right except for Ronald Reagan, who owed much to Buckley, which means we all do.