Monday, February 5, 2007

Ralph de Toledano, whose career as a conservative columnist and author spanned more than six decades, died Saturday at the age of 90 after a bout with cancer.

Mr. de Toledano, a co-founder of National Review magazine and member of the Newsweek editorial board for nearly 20 years, built his reputation as an early opponent of communism.

“His impact was tremendous,” said longtime friend and co-author Hugh Newton. “He was a forerunner of the conservative movement, a leader of the pack.”

Mr. de Toledano wrote and edited more than 20 books during his career, most famously the 1950 best-seller “Seeds of Treason,” co-written with Victor Lasky, detailing evidence that State Department official Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy.

“It was his anti-communism that attracted me to his writing, in particular ‘Seeds of Treason,’ ” said Allan H. Ryskind, editor at large of Human Events, a conservative publication. “He laid out the whole case against him. It was a very influential book. It nailed Hiss’ record of communism to the wall.”

Mr. de Toledano was friends with Whittaker Chambers, the former communist whose testimony implicated Hiss. A collection of letters exchanged between the two, “Notes from the Underground: The Whittaker Chambers/Ralph de Toledano Letters, 1949-1960,” was released in 1997.

Mr. de Toledano was born in Europe on Aug. 14, 1916, and in 1928 moved to New York City. He graduated from Columbia University in 1938, at a time when communism was popular among young intellectuals.

Some friends who were Communist Party members brought him to a 1939 meeting where a party official defended the treaty between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that preceded the outbreak of World War II. At his friends’ urging, Mr. de Toledano said, he began arguing with the communist official.

“Finally he stood up and pointed a finger at me. ‘This man is a liberal and an intellectual. You are forbidden to talk to him again,’ ” he recalled in a 1997 interview.

Mr. de Toledano became editor of the New Leader, a liberal journal that was consistently anti-communist, and in 1955 helped found the National Review. However, in 1960 he broke with his National Review colleagues by supporting the presidential campaign of Richard M. Nixon over Sen. Barry Goldwater, Arizona Republican.

In addition to his legacy as an influential conservative writer, Mr. de Toledano is remembered for his love of jazz music. In 1939, he was a founding editor of the magazine Jazz Information, wrote several books on the topic, including “Frontiers on Jazz,” and for years was National Review’s resident jazz critic.

Mr. Newton said he visited Mr. de Toledano about a month ago and that Mr. de Toledano remained interested in music and politics.

“He would be very much saddened by the lack of support for the president,” Mr. Newton said, explaining that Mr. de Toledano was a staunch supporter of the Iraq war.

Though he had largely retired from public life in recent years, Mr. de Toledano continued to write for such publications as the American Conservative. In an October 2004 review of William F. Buckley Jr.’s autobiography, Mr. de Toledano recounted one of the pair’s early exchanges, when he agreed to proofread a manuscript Mr. Buckley was writing.

“Bill sent the manuscript to me to check it for accuracy. I found perhaps a dozen minuscule errors in dates and such, which were passed on to Bill. He called to thank me and said that he was sending ‘a little cadeau.’ Several days later, there was a knock at my door and two men came in bearing a large wooden case — the 12, or is it 13, ponderous volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

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