Rick Perlstein's piece on "Why William F. Buckley Was My Role Model" shows the personable side of the famed conservative icon, while the NYT obituary provides the expected bevy of biographical data. Check out these videos of a 1969 Firing Line confrontation with Noam Chomsky for a sense of how the left-vs.-right arguments have degenerated since Buckley's time at the pinnacle of American conservatism.
Although Buckley's conservatism often led him to conclusions that were indefensible in retrospect, in particular his racism
"The central question that emerges...is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes--the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race." (National Review, 24 August 1957)
"Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed [sic] in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals." (New York Times op-ed, 18 March 1986)
"Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddam face and you'll stay plastered." (to Gore Vidal during an ABC debate, 28 August 1968)
his erudite vocabulary and patrician manner were nearly always a pleasure to admire and to argue against. Buckley was a far more worthy intellectual opponent than the crowd of cretins currently clamoring to claim his crown, and he will be missed.