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Fergus Reid Buckley

Posted: April 17, 2014 1:48 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2014 5:00 a.m.
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Fergus Reid Buckley

Fergus Reid Buckley passed away in Camden, South Carolina on April 14, 2014. He was the younger brother of conservative figure William F. Buckley, Jr. and of the Honorable James L. Buckley, former U.S. Senator from New York and Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"Reid" Buckley was born in Paris on 14 July 1930. "The French are very considerate," he would say. "They celebrate my birthday every year with fireworks, parades and speeches."

He was educated in the United States, England, and Mexico. He attended Millbrook School and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1952. At Yale, he was elected to Skull and Bones, was admitted into the Fence Club, contributed his silvery voice, along with Peter Coley’s, to one of the Yale singing groups, "heeled" and became a reporter for the Yale Daily News, and was part of a notable debating team, alongside Edward Meese. He studied Tragedy under the brilliant Richard Sewall, on whose behalf he fought against the infamous publish or perish policy, Modern Poetry under the supreme New Critic scholar, Cleanth Brooks, Cosmology under Paul Weiss, and Philosophy under the Thomist, John Courtney Murray s.j., who quickly noted Reid’s disinterest in and inaptitude for the Scholastic predilection for splitting hairs. Following his graduation from Yale, he served as a second and then first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.

In 1951, he married Elizabeth Huntting Howell of Islip, Long Island. They had four children: William Huntting Buckley, F. Reid Buckley, Jr, Elizabeth Buckley Riley, and Claude Langford Buckley.

In the early 1956, Reid moved his family to Marbella, Spain, and subsequently, in 1959, to Madrid, Spain where in those days an American expatriate of means could live very well. There, he and his wife cut a glamorous figure in Madrid society. Reid, whose first language was Spanish, wrote fluently and knowledgeably about bullfighting, and got to know well the leading toreros of the day, including Dominguin and Ordoñez. Another friend was Ava Gardner, the actress. Reid’s memoir of that friendship was published in National Review and can be accessed on-line.

In Spain he wrote a brilliant novel, Servants and Their Masters, which may ultimately become the book, among some 100-odd books written by his brothers, sisters and nephews, that will live on as Literature.

In 1971, he and Betsy divorced and Reid moved back to his boyhood home, Kamschatka, in Camden, South Carolina, with his beautiful new Spanish wife, Rosario "Tasa" Olano, and her five children: Francisco Borja de Olano, Patricia Mata de Olano, Santiago Cristobal de Olano, Francisco Javier de Olano, and Francisco Paco de Olano. In 1975, Tasa gave birth to John Alois Buckley, the 50th Buckley grandchild of Reid’s parents, William Frank Buckley and Aloise Steiner Buckley.

In the early 1960s, he became Contributing Editor to the conservative National Review and Triumph magazines as well as to the liberal New Times, a news weekly that folded shortly thereafter he says. In 1965, DOUBLEDAY published his first novel, Eye of the Hurricane, and the Colston Leigh Lecture Bureau of New York contracted him to give lecture tours, in the course of which he debated Sen. Eugene McCarthy, The Rolling Stones’s Nat Hentoff, firebrand (ill-fated) Weatherman Al Lowenstein, and socialist historian and polemicist Max Lerner with whom he became close friends. The debates with Max Lerner, extending through the 1970s, became major cultural events in colleges across the land.

As a result of that career, Reid started the Buckley School of Thought, Reflection and Communications in Camden, which flourished. Over its three decades, some 6,000 people took week-long seminars there on public speaking, writing and communication. Its alumni include CEOs, academics, TV personalities, doctors, lawyers, professional writers, aspirants to US and foreign high political offices, including presidential and senatorial, and an astronaut, who, should he encounter aliens will no doubt impress them with his rhetorical skills.

Reid was beloved by everyone and anyone who met him. He was a proverbial "fellow of infinite jest." He was also a person of gravitas and scholarly learning. A devoted and ardent Catholic, his love was unconditional. He had the gift of making you think you were the most important person in his life, despite the fact that there were many, many people in his life, including nine siblings, ten children, nearly 50 nieces and nephews, and numerous grandchildren.

He cut a dashing figure in his plus-fours, Inverness cape and shooting jacket. His great passion, aside from God and his family and his writing and teaching, was his farm outside Camden, "Peor Es Nada." (The name comes from a town in Chile he stumbled across: hard to translate, but roughly: ‘Worse, There Is Nothing.") Over the years, he and Tasa and his children labored to transform a scrubby pine barren (and the adjoining farm, "Peor es Esto" – to underscore the condition of both farms, "This is Worse") into a wonderland of deer fields, fishing ponds, woodland paths, dog and rabbit runs and a splendid wine cellar. He had entire poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins engraved on tablets and placed around the property.

Reid had the gift of life, and imparted it generously and infectiously. He will be greatly missed, for the love he so abundantly dispensed, for his brilliance as a raconteur, for his grilled quail with Yukon Jack liquer, for the twinkle in his eye. But most of all, he will be missed for the laughter, which will ring and echo on in the ears of all who heard it.

Funeral service will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Health, 1709 Lyttleton Street, Camden, SC at ten o’clock this Tuesday, April 22. Interment to follow at the Quaker Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 1709 Lyttleton Street, Camden, S.C. 29020. Reid is survived by 2 siblings, out of 9, 9 children, 22 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.

Sign the online register at www.powersfuneralhome.net.

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