William F. Buckley, Jr. Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 748 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

William Frank Buckley, Jr., was the founder, leader, and most famous exponent of modern American conservatism. He was born in New York City on November 24, 1925, the sixth child of wealthy oilman and entrepreneur Will Buckley and his wife, Aloise. The father of ten children, Will Buckley was a man of strong political opinions and intense religious faith, and his son grew up in an atmosphere of unwavering commitment to laissez-faire capitalism and the Roman Catholic Church—and hostility toward communism. These beliefs formed the core of William F. Buckley’s personal and public philosophy.

Buckley received his early education at home from private tutors; at St. John’s Beaumont, a Catholic boarding school in England; and at a small private academy near Sharon, Connecticut. In September, 1946, after two years in the United States Army (where he became a second lieutenant), Buckley entered Yale University. Though he soon established a reputation as a champion debater, his greatest ambition was to become editor of the Yale Daily News, the elite and highly influential campus newspaper. Upon attaining this position in his junior year, Buckley sparked controversy by using the paper’s editorial pages to attack the prevailing liberal ideology of the faculty and administration. Yet he remained personally popular and shortly before graduation, in 1950, was named undergraduate of the year.

Buckley had been so disturbed by what he viewed as the antireligious climate at Yale that, almost immediately after graduating, he began to write his first book, God and Man at Yale, published in 1951. In it, he continued the debate that he had begun in the college paper by charging that Yale had abandoned the philosophy of its founders, based on the acceptance of Christianity and free enterprise, and had developed in its place a relativistic orthodoxy which encouraged atheism and socialism. To Buckley’s great surprise, the book was an instant best-seller and raised storms of angry debate. He was soon deluged with offers for speaking engagements. Having to articulate his views in public helped him to forge them into a coherent new approach to politics and philosophy, one that rejected traditional definitions of “conservatism” as simply defending the status quo. Buckley’s new conservatism was aggressively individualistic, rebellious, and antisecularist.

After a short stint working for the American Mercury, a moribund conservative magazine, Buckley became involved in the public debate about Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had become notorious by publicly accusing the State Department of employing large numbers of communists and Communist Party sympathizers. When McCarthy could not substantiate his charges, he was...

(The entire section is 1130 words.)