William F. Buckley Jr
William F. Buckley Jr. has died. He's probably the most important political figure in America since WWII who never served in office. His books and magazine--The National Review--helped form the intellectual basis for the modern conservative movement. And for years, his show, Firing Line, was TV's oasis of rational argument and probing discussion.
I had lunch with him once. He was scheduled to speak at the University of Chicago and I picked him up from another speech in the West suburbs and drove him to Hyde Park. But first he wanted to stop for lunch at a place where he could get a nice glass of wine, so we drove into the Loop.
We walked on the street a bit and several people recognized him--I saw what it was like to be a celebrity up close. Some wanted to stop and speak to him. He brought that out in people.
At lunch, he told anecdotes about great people he'd known. (One of his stories had a punchline in French.) He asked me what my politics were and I said I was an independent--I think he might have been surprised since I'd guess most students chosen to drive him around were conservative. He was kind enough to pay for lunch--though considering how much we were paying him for his appearance it was the least he could do, now that I think of it.
At his speech, someone asked him if the way he talked and acted was affected, and he said for something to be affected, you have to affect it, whereas he acted naturally. So I guess he was just naturally intelligent, charming and erudite.