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The founder of the National Review had been ill and had emphysema. Family and friends said his passing could not have happened at a more fitting place. "He was one of the hardest working men of our time," said Christopher Hitchens, who is a close friend of Buckley's son, Christopher. "He was always rushing from one thing to the next; every minute was booked."
Hitchens remembered asking the elder Buckley to meet for a drink a few times, following television appearances, but it was never meant to be, as "he wasn't someone to just shoot the breeze with." Hitchens also talked about his appreciation for Buckley's long-running PBS program "Firing Line." "He really gave people time to develop an argument," he said. "These days, you often leave a show feeling like you forgot to say something; if you left 'Firing Line' feeling that way, it was your fault."
Hitchens is writing a piece about Buckley for The Weekly Standard. Separately, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of The New York Times Book Review, is writing a biography.
Buckley's last piece was published on Feb. 2, titled "Fowlerspeak-Goodspeak." He used the debate between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as an occasion to write about "Fowler's Modern English Usage." His assistant, Linda Bridges, said Buckley unfortunately had to dictate his work to another writer, since he broke his hand. This spring, Buckley will have a book published about Barry Goldwater, called "Flying High." And he had been working on a book about Ronald Reagan; however, Bridges said she is not sure what will happen with it.
Buckley is survived by his son and grandchildren Conor and Caitlin, as well as his sisters, Priscilla, Patricia and Carol, and brothers Reid and James. His wife, the well-known socialite Patricia Taylor Buckley, died last April at age 80.