This picture was taken in April 1996 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where I was a full-time faculty member from 1989 to 1996. The woman in the middle is my wife, Frankie. Right before the photo was taken, I was standing next to Bill Buckley and my wife was to his left. He then gently grasped her shoulders from behind, escorted her between us, turned to me and said, "A rose between two thorns."
Mr. Buckley was at UNLV for a debate with John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist with which he debated numerous times. Frankie and I snuck into the room where Mr. Buckley was convalescing before the debate. We were amazed to find him all by himself. We introduced ourselves to him. He immediately began asking me questions about my academic work. I told him that I had published a book (Politically Correct Death) that had been one of the two featured volumes by the Conservative Book Club during a month in 1994. I proudly told him that the other book was his, Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist. He then said, in his distinct style, "That's similar to when my son Chris and I both had books on the New York Times bestsellers list at the same time." I thought to myself, "No, it isn't." He, of course, was just trying to be kind. And I very much appreciated that. He then turned his attention to my wife and asked her a variety of questions about living in Las Vegas with a philosopher. He was so charming and gracious, and seemed sincerely interested in us and what our lives were like.
A university official arrived to take Mr. Buckley to the theatre at which the debate was to take place. So, I didn't get a chance to tell him that his work--especially the book Up From Liberalism--strongly influenced my developing political views while I was in college and graduate school. While reading the book as an undergraduate I found myself agreeing with its arguments before I knew that the author was a "conservative." In fact, when I told one of my professors that I was reading Up From Liberalism and thought it was a terrific read whose author presented compelling arguments for his political views, my professor said, "But Buckley is a conservative. You can't possible agree with him." I then said, "I guess I am a conservative."
Thank you, Bill Buckley. Well done, good and faithful servant.