When I was growing up in Douglas County, Ga., I used to read Buckley's columns in the Atlanta Journal. For a boy 11 or 12 years old, reading Buckley was a splendid educational experience because I was so often forced to look up those fancy words he liked to use.
Years later, in the mid-1990s, when I was beginning to reconsider my loyalty to the Democratic Party, one of the first conservative books I read that helped change my mind was Buckley's classic Up From Liberalism -- first published in 1959, the year of my birth.
Buckley meant so much to the conservative movement. He was not only a magazine publisher, author and columnist, but for years in the 1950s and '60s, Buckley was the most public face of conservatism. He'd go on "The Tonight Show" or some other TV program and -- with his superbly honed skills of rhetoric and logic -- represent in fine fashion the movement he helped to build.
His jut-jawed aristocratic demeanor and his British-influenced locution conveyed an upscale sensibility that helped make conservatism appealing and respectable in an age when liberal spokesmen otherwise dominated the public discourse.
He will be missed.
UPDATE: Here's Buckley debating Noam Chomsky in 1969:
UPDATE II: Jimmie at Sundries Shack was also influenced by Buckley:
Between National Review magazine and his indispendable weekly Firing Line television shows, Buckley filled my teenaged mind with facts and arguments that required me to read a lot more than I already was just to keep pace.Just so, Jimmie. Just so.