William F. Buckley Jr. is dead at 82

The father of modern conservatism is found at his desk at home.

Published February 27, 2008 5:03PM (EST)

The father of modern conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82. While the exact cause of death is not yet known, the conservative commentator has suffered from diabetes and emphysema, according to his son Christopher, the New York Times reported. Buckley was found at his desk in his study. "He might have been working on a column," his son said.

Buckley founded the National Review in 1955, the Bible on which modern conservatism rose, and hosted the TV show "Firing Line" for more than 30 years, the longest-running public affairs show with a single host in the history of television. He also wrote more than 45 books, including a spy novel series with 11 volumes in it. Over the course of his life, he wrote 5,600 installments of his biweekly column, "On the Right," sometimes whipping them out in as little as 20 minutes.

Buckley's biggest achievement was revitalizing conservatism at a time when it had been marginalized in the United States for decades, since conservatives had opposed Roosevelt's New Deal and advocated isolationism before the U.S. entry into World War II. Buckley was the intellectual force behind failed U.S. presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, and later the rise of President Ronald Reagan. His work incorporated the ideas of libertarian Max Eastman, economist Milton Friedman and anti-communist writers like Whittaker Chambers.

In recent years, Buckley had broken with the neocons running the White House, saying in 2005 that President Bush "is conservative but he is not a conservative" and that the war in Iraq was "anything but conservative."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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