One of the National Review writers said it best: words fail.
The father of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr., died this morning at the age of 82. People of all political stripes came to respect his class, wit, and intellectual prowess. Others can give better accountings of his life and work. But I'll just say that he brought intellectual weight to the conservative movement mid-20th Century that made it a viable alternative to the status quo progressivism. His actions help legitimize the goals of the movement and drive out some of the kooks (ex. the John Birch Society).
I never met the man, but I feel that given the chance, I would've felt the same as a number of NR writers: I would be afraid of making a fool of myself in front of such an intellectual giant. I did, however, receive a letter from him congratulating me on an award I won several years back. From public figures, such as he was, you would expect a form letter signed by an auto-pen. This could've been the case, but knowing how National Review is run plus a couple things about the letter itself, I like to believe that it was actually from him.
The image of Buckley in my mind's eye will always be like the one below. A young(ish) Buckley leaning back in a chair with a big grin, probably after making a witty comment.
He will be missed.
UPDATE: As could be expected, lots of people are finding this post because they're interested in WFB's funeral. According to K-Lo on The Corner yesterday, "The memorial service for William F. Buckley Jr. will be at 10 A.M. at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on April 4. It will be open to the public."