- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2008

UPDATED:

Paul M. Weyrich, one of the early founders of the Heritage Foundation and a leading force in the conservative movement, died Thursday morning at age 66, the foundation reported.

He was chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

Mr. Weyrich had been ill for several years, eventually having to have both legs amputated, yet he managed to remain active to the end, organizing summit meetings on the future of conservatism as well as writing opinion pieces for his own foundation and for news organizations.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said of Mr. Weyrich: “Ideas alone do not have consequences. Ideas, even — or especially — powerful ideas are like seeds. If they land in fertile soil and are cultivated, they can grow. On rock or sand or ignored or tended by incompetents, they die. The idea of individual liberty and a limited constitutional government has been around a long time. Liberty doesn’t need new ideas to advance, but institutions to give muscle and skeletal structure to a political movement for liberty. That is how Paul Weyrich changed the world for the better.”

Mr. Norquist said Mr. Weyrich understood that only freedom could successfully promote traditional values. “He brought leaders of various freedom impulses together. Most of the successes of the conservative movement since the 1970s flowed from structures, organizations, and coalitions he started, created or nurtured.”

The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition said of his friend: “Paul Weyrich was a pioneer of the conservative movement and a staunch defender of traditional values. He was a brilliant strategist, an aggressive defender of the faith, and a determined foe against the failed philosophy of liberalism. Most of all, he was a good friend, confidant and someone who could be relied upon to do the right thing for our nation and for the Christian faith, which he embraced. We will miss him — and the conservative movement has lost a giant whose influence will be felt for years to come.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, echoed those sentiments Thursday.

“During the last 40 years, Paul Weyrich helped create ‘cultural conservatism’ and infuse creative thinking into the conservative movement. He was a good friend, and I will miss him greatly.”

Rep. Tom Price, incoming chair of the Republican Study Committee, described the legacy of Mr. Weyrich’s work.

“America and conservatives lost a giant today,” Mr. Price said. “Like all who admired him, I am deeply saddened to learn of Paul Weyrich’s passing. Paul was a man of great passion who made our nation better by fighting for that in which he truly believed. His legacy will be one of enthusiasm, ingenuity, and unyielding principle. Only because of the hard work of Paul Weyrich do conservatives have the voice we enjoy today. Though Paul is in a better place today, we will honor his life by continuing to positively and actively defend the ideals for which he lived.”

Mr. Weyrich often made his views known in columns in The Washington Times.

In his Dec. 11 column in The Times, Mr. Weyrich wrote: “When pundits are asked to name the best presidents of the 20th century, Harry S. Truman’s name always comes up. That is interesting because when he left office in 1953 he had even lower approval ratings than President Bush now has. … How will history judge Mr. Bush? Many of us won’t be alive when the first verdict is in.”

His last open column, dated Thursday at the Free Congress Foundation, was titled: “The Next Conservatism, A Serious Agenda for the Future.”

In that column, he wrote: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It is the worst of times because millions of Americans are unemployed this Christmas. It is the worst of years because we have mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren for decades to come. It is the worst of years because many good friends have left us. It is the best of times because we still live in the greatest nation on earth. It is the best of years because we have the freedom to speak our minds. It is the best of years because we can organize as we see fit to support the political candidates of our choice.”

The Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. Mike Duncan said, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Paul Weyrich, whose life work was instrumental in the development of conservative thought. As the first president of the Heritage Foundation and respected leader of other conservative organizations and coalitions, Paul’s service to America has embodied and further advanced the Republican Party’s core values of limited government, lower taxes, and individual responsibility. We are saddened by the passing of Paul Weyrich, but we know that his contributions will continue to resonate for generations.”

The Heritage Foundation’s blog Thursday stated: “Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage’s prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005.

“Weyrich will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage.”

Survivors include Mr. Weyrich’s wife, the former Joyce Anne Smigun, several children and grandchildren.

Staff writers Ralph Z. Hallow and Jon Ward contributed to this article.