After graduating from the University of Virginia (Philosophy, Cognitive Science, ’05) Anthony Dick moved to New York City and spent two years in the company of a man in his late seventies. As his friends from college began their jobs at consulting companies, investment banks, and went to graduate school, Dick all but moved in with a septuagenarian.
Dick’s new roommate lived in a lavish townhouse at 73rd and Park Ave and at a home in Stamford, Connecticut— this man was William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of the National Review and godfather of American conservatism. How Anthony Dick, then 21, came to be Buckley’s assistant, friend, and surrogate grandson, was, he says, “pure luck. I was in the right time in the right place.”
Dick, who is tall and young-looking (for indeed, he is very young), with simple wire-framed glasses, combed hair, a checked green shirt, a blue blazer, khakis and boating shoes, is gracious and speaks carefully and softly. He looks like he takes good care of his appearance, but he is not particularly stylish—he looks as if he’s ready to go sailing, though.
A “3L” at Stanford Law, Dick is the president of the law school’s conservative group, the Federalist Society. Conservative before he met Buckley, his views were cemented and enhanced within the walls of the Buckley maisonettes and the boardrooms of the National Review. Dick began working for the Review—which is how he became acquainted with Buckley—immediately after graduation.
His column in UVA’s daily paper, a “controversial column” because of his inflammatory style and conservative views (particularly: anti-affirmative action, virulently pro-free speech and anti-sensitivity) had attracted the attention of a professor, Larry Sabato, who knew the editor of the Review, Rich Lowry. “They flew me up from Virginia to New York City for my interview and back on the same day.” Dick was hired as an associate editor—a very impressive achievement at such a young age, and one about which Dick is very humble.
Dick came to meet Buckley at the *Review *offices. By 2005, Buckley had given up editorial control at the magazine, but still maintained creative control and influence, and was still the life of the party. Dick was lucky enough to be invited to a coveted editor’s dinner at Buckley’s townhouse.
Every other Monday, Buckley held a dinner for friends, writers, politicians, and family members. His wife, Pat, a society dame who had decorated the Buckley houses in her particular baroque (gold! velvet! chintz!) style, was responsible for inviting the right mix of guests to keep the conversation lively. At Dick’s first Monday night dinner, Buckley graciously sat him to his right, at the head of the table. A few weeks later he received a type-written letter, signed by WFB: “Give me a call. I have designs on your future,” it read.
This awesomely ominous note thus began a friendship Dick could never have predicted: a post-college boy and the Lion of Conservatism, the man who helped to make Barry Goldwater “Mr. Conservative” and Ronald Reagan “Mr. President.”
While working at the Review, Dick also assisted Buckley with editing his book, The Rake, which was loosely based on a Clintonesque character. To do the job and to help his friend, Dick learned WordStar, a 1980 word-processing program that Buckley insisted on using. The two of them typed and wrote away, their work interrupted only by shared jokes and afternoon cocktails.
Dick, then 22, learned to live the lifestyle of a patrician sir who had been reared in the high society world of New York and Europe. It was early to bed, early to rise, and drinks were served by noon. “You don’t worry so much about writers block after a few drinks,” he says. “I’ve had to adjust to a normal life since coming to Law School. I can’t drink at lunch anymore.”
In 2007, Buckley took Dick with him to buy a house in Bermuda for the occasion of writing a book on Barry Goldwater. Buckley wanted to write by the water, and he wanted a house for Pat to coalesce after an illness she had been fighting. They property-hunted together, and joined the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Buckley found the mansion he liked on Hamilton Bay and bargained the owners down. He and Dick moved in (Pat was unfortunately still too ill to come). The two men—Buckley had turned eighty, and Dick was twenty-three—settled into a routine. They would work and eat out, having meals with Dark and Stormys (the “official” drink in Bermuda: dark rum and ginger beer).
Buckley and Dick returned to the East Coast after a few months; Buckley wanted to be with Pat, and traveling back and forth was too strenuous. At that point, Dick had decided to come to Stanford for law school (“I thought I wouldn’t ever visit California if I didn’t go there for school,” he says). Buckley had been, he says, the perfect mentor. He taught him how to be both carefree and fun-loving, but also to maintain his seriousness of purpose, and, in his words, a “real obligation to defend the country against forces of deterioration.” Buckley taught him how to enjoy life while doing something serious with it.
When Buckley died in early 2008—Dick remembers getting the news right before his property law class—the conservative movement lost their icon, and Dick lost a friend. At a last *National Review *dinner, Rich Lowry had asked Buckley whether he thought it was time to finally retire. “Well then who will be clever?” responded Buckley.