- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

William F. Buckley Jr., the founder and guiding force of National Review, has given up ownership of the magazine that has helped shape the modern conservative movement since its inception nearly 50 years ago.

Mr. Buckley, 78, who has been forced to abandon some of his favorite activities, like sailing and piano playing, because of the creeping infirmities of old age, turned over stock ownership of the venerable political journal to a handpicked board of trustees that will oversee its direction in the years to come.

The man often referred to as the “father of the conservative movement,” who burst onto the political landscape in the early 1950s with the publication of “God and Man at Yale,” a biting indictment of his liberal alma mater, cited “concerns about his own mortality as the primary reason for his divestiture.”

He planned to relinquish ownership at a dinner last night at his favorite Italian restaurant near National Review’s New York offices at East 34th Street, which has long been a gathering spot for its editors and writers.

“He’s still very keen of mind, but he’s nearly 79 years old, and there is a point in time when your body tells you to slow down,” said Edward A. Capano, the magazine’s publisher, who will now become its chief executive officer under the new arrangement.

Mr. Buckley, who was editor-at-large, will now become editor emeritus, though the magazine will continue to publish his twice-weekly syndicated column and the “Notes and Asides” column in which he engages in literary banter with the magazine’s readers.

“We will continue to use him whenever it’s appropriate. He’s a conservative icon and can be helpful to us in many, many ways,” Mr. Capano said.

But the magazine’s editors yesterday also expressed sadness that Mr. Buckley was cutting his last connection to the magazine. He stepped down as editor nearly a decade ago, then gradually withdrew from many other activities, ending his long-running public television talk show, “Firing Line,” after three decades on the air and withdrawing from the lecture circuit.

“It’s definitely a momentous moment, in some regards the passing of an era, really, although Bill will continue to be an active journalist with his newspaper column and two books a year,” said National Review editor Rich Lowry, a Buckley protege.

“There’s a sense of wistfulness that focuses the mind on his accomplishments because when he started the magazine, this was pretty much it for conservatives. Now it’s become this movement with so many arms and voices,” Mr. Lowry said.

Mr. Buckley, who has been writing about old age lately, is fond of joking with friends and close associates that he is ” slowly decomposing,” though he remains in overall good health, they say.

One of Mr. Buckley’s greatest loves was sailing, and he wrote several books about his adventures on the high seas on several luxurious vessels that he has owned over the years. But this month he wrote a farewell to his sailing passion in the Atlantic Monthly magazine, saying that he was getting too old for such rigors.

The question he had to ask himself was, “Is the ratio of pleasure to effort holding its own? Or is effort creeping up, pleasure down?”

He has also given up playing the piano and the harpsichord, too, he writes. “The fingers get rusty, the dividends are more laboriously achieved, the memory is shakier. One can putter on — or quit.”

The magazine’s new board of trustees includes Mr. Buckley’s son, humorist Christopher Buckley; the magazine’s president, Thomas L. Rhodes; and Austin Bramwell, a contributor to the magazine who graduated from Yale in 2000. Mr. Rhodes will be the board’s chairman.

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