James Buckley Obituary, Death – One of the most impressive men I’ve ever met passed away today at the age of 100. James Buckley was a World War II veteran—a U.S. Navy officer who served three years in the Pacific, a U.S. Senator, a senior Reagan State Department official, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a patriot, a statesman, a man of impeccable integrity and deep faith, a dear friend and mentor, and a shining and inspiring example of a life well lived, and a life lived in full. Over 30 years ago, during my last year of law school, I had the great fortune of being hired by then Judge Buckley as a law clerk/intern when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
This lucky break developed into a lifelong friendship and mentorship with me, and Judge Buckley and my then girlfriend, Julie—now my wife of 29 years. Julie and Judge Buckley had a very special connection concerning Alaska. In 1971, when Judge Buckley was then U.S. Senator Buckley, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, or ANCSA—the largest indigenous lands claim act in history—was being debated. Alaska Native leaders from across the state came to D.C. to lobby for the bill. One of those leaders was Julie’s mother, my mother-in-law, the beautiful and brilliant Mary Jane Fate.
Her personal efforts turned Senator Buckley—a conservative senator from New York State—into a strong proponent for ANCSA and Alaska Native self-determination and empowerment. For Judge Buckley, this built on a lifelong interest and involvement and commitment to Alaska and the Arctic. Well into his 90s, Judge Buckley would come almost every summer to visit our state. Julie, her parents and I had such memorable meetings and dinners with him during his visits to Alaska.
Of course, this connection continued even to the present day where Julie and I were honored to share dinner with Judge Buckley on a regular basis in D.C. James L. Buckley left his mark on the American soul and American history and American heritage. He will be remembered and will be greatly missed by countless Americans. Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to his wonderful family and his many friends and admirers.