50th anniversary of Bill Buckley’s ‘Firing Line’

50th anniversary of Bill Buckley’s ‘Firing Line’
William F. Buckey, Jr. hosts the new governor of California on Firing Line in 1967. (Image: Screen grab of Firing Line video posted by LibertyPen, YouTube)

[Ed. – A sharp twinge of nostalgia for aging conservatives.  I don’t know that younger cons have anything quite comparable as a touchstone.]

Conservatives gathered at the Hoover Institution’s Johnson Center in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Firing Line,William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Emmy-awarding winning television show, as part of the think tank’s Buckley Legacy Project.

Firing Line, which Buckley once called “a bare-knuckled intellectual brawl,” was the longest-running public affairs show in television history with a single host. Buckley’s rapier wit and extensive vocabulary were regularly on display during his verbal duels with guests ranging from Saul Alinsky to Margaret Thatcher.

The show, which aired 1,505 times between 1966 and 1999, was credited with making conservative ideas accessible to large numbers of Americans who would otherwise not have been exposed to them.

A panel of conservative leaders who knew Buckley discussed the impact of the show before clips were played of him interviewing a who’s-who list of politicians and celebrities, including Ronald Reagan, Muhammad Ali, Milton Friedman, Hugh Hefner, and Barry Goldwater.

“I fully expect I’ll be wrong about something someday,” Buckley said in one of his trademark quips.

But the hour-long show provided much more than a showcase for Buckley’s dazzling rhetorical skills.

“Viewers were able to discover what the guests were like under fire,” said Lee Edwards, author and distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who confessed that he was “terrified, absolutely terrified” the two times Buckley invited him to be a guest on the show.

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