William F. Buckley, Jr., was born William Francis Buckley, the sixth of ten children in New York City on November 24, 1925, to William Frank Buckley, Sr., a Texas attorney, and Aloise Steiner Buckley. At the age of five, the young Buckley decided to change his middle name to Frank so that his entire name would be identical to his father’s. The senior Buckley was a formative influence on his son, imparting to all of his children not only a resolute traditionalism but also the rebellious spirit of a conservative who had fallen from power. That spirit was aroused in the senior Buckley during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921), when insurgents took control of that nation, seized the Buckley family petroleum assets, and destroyed the family’s influence. From then on, the father never missed an opportunity to inspire hatred of revolution in his children.
The family had other assets, however, principally in Venezuela, where William, Jr., spent most of his first year. Between the ages of four and eight, he lived with his family in Europe. Although the theme of conservatives who are outside the power structure would surface in many ways throughout Buckley’s writings, his overseas experiences tended to mitigate the influence of his father’s isolationism.
Another early trait of Buckley was his defiant stance toward the administrators and faculties of the schools he attended. At the age of thirteen, while enrolled in Saint John’s Beaumont School in England, he heard of the Munich Agreement, whereby British prime minister Neville Chamberlain conceded Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. In protest, Buckley hung an American flag over his bed—a gesture defiant of the administration but not in keeping with his father’s isolationism. Later, as a Yale undergraduate, Buckley proposed a speech attacking the...
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