Reid Buckley on Forgiveness and a Father’s Love

From the December 20, 1970 issue of Life magazine.  James Buckley, of the famous Buckley […]

Matthew Stokes / 7.19.11

From the December 20, 1970 issue of Life magazine.  James Buckley, of the famous Buckley family, was elected senator from the state of New York, and Life magazine dedicated an expansive profile to his prolific family.  Here is an excerpt from the piece, written by the youngest Buckley son, the author Reid Buckley.  It offers some insightful detail into William F. Buckley, Sr., the family patriarch, and a man of whom his children could clearly say that love covered a multitude of sins:

“He could be severe.  “Reid, I’d like to see you in the Empire room after lunch.”  We trembled when we heard those words.  He was thirty-six when he married, forty-nine years old when I was born, old enough to be the grandfather of half of us and as much a figure of awe as of fun.  We did not realize until we were older how Father himself suffered – agonized – over those meetings, first consulting with Mother in their upstairs suite and then girding himself for them.  It hurt him to recognize some delinquency of character in us.  It hurt him to be obliged to point that delinquency out to us.

The most famous member of the Buckley family

He began always in an embarrassed manner, asking us how we were and how we were doing.  Abruptly, he might break into our replies.  “Reid, I’ve called you in for this talk because…because I was very sorry to hear that you lost your again last week and hit Maureen over the head with a golf club.  Did you?”  “It…it was a croquet mallet, Father.”  His cheeks flushed.  “I am not going to put up with this sort of behavior.  You are old enough to learn…”  He became heated now, his index finger wagging admonitorily, his jaw set, and his expression stern.  Tears would sting high up in our nasal passages; a sob might choke in our throats.  It was an awful thing to invoke the wrath of our father, especially when we ourselves burned with the disappointment we had caused him.  Before the interview was over, we might dissolve in tears, and then bewilderment would enter his expression.  Good heavens, had he been too harsh on us?  What should he do?  He was to impress us with…”Aloise!  Oh, say, Aloise!”  Mother, who had awaited apprehensively in the library, would come dashing in.  “Will! Ohhh, Will, I told you not to lose your temper.  There, Reid, there…”

At supper, the chastened child would be silent.  There was general (and unusual) silence at the table.  Mother would gaze reproachfully at Father, who was so miserable that efforts to rouse him into one of his tales were useless.  “Another time, John.”

Then he would leave on the Sunday afternoon train for the week’s work in New York.  And before that week was out, the chastised sister or brother would receive through the mail an absolutely stupendous gift.”


I read this and could not help but be reminded by the words of grace I have heard so often here at Mockingbird, and from our various and sundry heroes – PZ, Fitz Allison, Werner Elert, Gerhard Forde.  The Gospel of grace, that is an undeserved, unmerited, unearned gift to an unworthy rebel always – always! – has the last and final word.  Thanks be to God.


(This excerpt from Reid Buckley’s Life piece is also available in his recent Buckley family biography entitled An American Family: The Buckleys.  Readers may be aware that the Buckley family is devoutly Roman Catholic and fiercely conservative.  However, I heartily recommend the book, which is a delightful read, regardless of your political or religious inclinations)

Reid Buckley's fine biography of his famous family