The passing of William F. Buckley Jr., 82, yesterday leaves the world of ideas a little less gracious, not as much fun, and woefully lacking in vocabulary skills.

Buckley went from being almost a lone conservative voice in the post-World War II liberal wilderness, to the intellectual heart and soul of a movement that brought to power Reagan, Gingrich and Bush.

Though there was one run for mayor of New York City in 1965, his influence came mostly from outside the political arena. Instead, he was the professor emeritus of U.S. Conservatism 101, in which he reintroduced generations of Americans to pre-New Deal principles of individual liberty, economic freedom and limited government.

His two most famous lecture halls were the magazine National Review, founded in 1955, and the TV program

Firing Line

, in which thousands of guests were skewered, always with charm and wit, from 1966 to 1999.

Ronald Reagan once told him, "You didn't just part the Red Sea - you rolled it back, dried it up, and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism."

Through it all he perfected the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Debate could be gracious and humorous - and spiced with $10 words.

To paraphrase one person on


yesterday, God better have his dictionary handy.