Diary

Remembering James J. Kilpatrick, 89, an important pre-blog conservative columnist

Conservative writer James J. Kilpatrick, 89, has died. I’d read a few of his columns, but I most remember him from his 60 Minutes debates and other tv talk appearances.

From the New York Times (which, unfortunately, plays up his early stand for segregation–something he later reversed positions on):

James J. Kilpatrick, Conservative Voice in Print and on TV, Dies at 89
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN
Published: August 16, 2010
James J. Kilpatrick, a prominent conservative voice for half a century as a newspaper editor and columnist, author and television personality, died Sunday in Washington. He was 89.
(…)
In the mid-1950s, Mr. Kilpatrick became something of a national figure, articulating constitutional arguments justifying the policy of “massive resistance” to the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing school segregation. But as the South changed, so did Mr. Kilpatrick, who dropped his fervent defense of segregation a decade later.
(…)
Mr. Kilpatrick popularized the doctrine called interposition, according to which individual states had the constitutional duty to interpose their separate sovereignties against federal court rulings that went beyond their rightful powers and, if necessary, to nullify them, an argument traced to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John C. Calhoun.

He debated on television with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wrote on race and states’ rights in “The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia” (Regnery, 1957) and “The Southern Case for School Segregation” (Crowell-Collier, 1962).
(…)
In the 1970s, he sparred with Nicholas von Hoffman and later with Ms. Alexander on the “Point-Counterpoint” segment of “60 Minutes.” The Kilpatrick-Alexander clashes on issues like the Vietnam War and the women’s movement were parodied on TV’s “Saturday Night Live” by Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin. Mr. Aykroyd would proclaim, “Jane, you ignorant slut,” and Ms. Curtin would reply, “Dan, you pompous ass.”

People today probably still remember Dan Aykroyd’s “Jane, you ignorant slut!” and have no idea who Aykroyd was doing.

His Wikipedia page is, unfortunately, very brief.

From the blog The American Conservative:

James Kilpatrick -RIP – the Conservative Literary Path Not Taken…Posted on August 16th, 2010 by Jim Bovard
(…)
But there were some issues on which he stunned me. When I was doing the research for Lost Rights in the early 1990s, Kilpatrick was one of the few conservatives who understood and treasured the Fourth Amendment. He vigorously opposed permitting government to conduct unreasonable, warrantless searches and he recognized how this profoundly changed the relation of State & Citizen. (I think that is a fair characterization of his position – my memory is dusty here.) There were other issues on which Kilpatrick avoided the cravenness that too often characterized Washington pundits, both left and right, in recent decades.

From the Washington Post:

James J. Kilpatrick, 89, dies; conservative columnist formerly on ’60 Minutes’
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
(…)
His prose blended the erudite and the homespun, and he became one of the few conservatives syndicated in print nationally in the early 1960s. His column “A Conservative View” ran in hundreds of newspapers for nearly 30 years and initially predated the television presence of William F. Buckley Jr., founder of the conservative National Review magazine.

“Before there was a Bill Buckley, before there was a Ronald Reagan or Rush Limbaugh, there was James Jackson Kilpatrick explaining public-policy issues from a conservative perspective,” said Richard Viguerie, a conservative youth group leader in the early 1960s who became a direct-mail pioneer for conservative political candidates.
(…)
Mr. Kilpatrick, who lived most recently in Washington, saw himself as a “fiercely individualistic” writer who spoke only for himself.

He said he was once on television to “take the side of ‘The Conservative’s View of Watergate.’ And I asked myself, ‘Just what is a conservative’s view of burglary?’ “

Yes, he was a conservative pioneer in the media. Before Bill Buckley, before Ronald Reagan, before Rush Limbaugh.

From Politico:

James Kilpatrick set stage for political TV talk
By KEACH HAGEY | 8/16/10 8:08 PM EDT
James Kilpatrick, the conservative columnist who died Sunday at the age of 89, left a wide mark on the world of letters, but his greatest impact on the political media may well have been in television.

Kilpatrick, known to all as Kilpo, formed the conservative side of the “Point/Counterpoint” segment of CBS’s “60 Minutes” in the 1970s, famously parodied by Saturday Night Live and later copied by CNN in “Crossfire.” The fact that “Crossfire” itself looks set for a kind of copying with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker this fall suggests just how prescient Kilpatrick’s television career was.

Yes, that’s how I’ll remember him most.

Kilpatrick loved words. I’m in a long line of conservative word/phrase lovers, from Kilpatrick to Bill Buckley to William Safire. (I use computer databases that they never had and give away my work for free.)

My website has mentioned his name on the entries for “columny,” “Perception is everything in politics,” and “fiscal cancer.”

SUMMARY
A member of the old guard has passed. We salute and remember you, old friend.