James Buckley
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Assumed office
August 31, 1996
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
December 17, 1985 – August 31, 1996
Appointed byRonald Reagan
Preceded byEdward Tamm
Succeeded byJohn Roberts
Counselor of the Department of State
In office
September 9, 1982 – September 26, 1982
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byBud McFarlane
Succeeded byEd Derwinski
Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs
In office
February 28, 1981 – August 20, 1982
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byMatthew Nimetz
Succeeded byWilliam Schneider
United States Senator
from New York
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byCharles Goodell
Succeeded byDaniel Patrick Moynihan
Personal details
James Lane Buckley

(1923-03-09) March 9, 1923 (age 99)
New York City, U.S.
Political partyConservative (before 1976)
Republican (1976–present)
Ann Frances Cooley
(m. 1953; died 2011)
EducationYale University (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1942–1946
US Navy O2 infobox.svg
Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
Battles/warsWorld War II

James Lane Buckley (born March 9, 1923) is an American retired jurist, politician, civil servant, attorney, businessman, and author, and the Senior Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, he previously served as a United States Senator from New York as a member of both the Republican Party and the Conservative Party of New York from 1971 to 1977. He was also the Republican nominee in the 1980 Connecticut Senate race, but was defeated by Democrat Chris Dodd.

In 1970, Buckley was elected to the U.S. Senate as the nominee of the Conservative Party of New York; he won 39 percent of the vote[1] and served from 1971 until 1977. During the first Reagan administration, Buckley served as Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs. He was also President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from 1982 to 1985.

Buckley was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on October 16, 1985. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 17, 1985 and received commission on December 17, 1985. Buckley assumed senior status on August 31, 1996. He is one of the few people in modern times to have served in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Federal government.

Early life, education, and early career

James L. Buckley was born in New York City, the fourth of ten children of Aloise Josephine Antonia (née Steiner) and lawyer and businessman William Frank Buckley, Sr.[2][3] He is the older brother of the late conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr. and the uncle of Christopher Taylor Buckley. He is also the uncle of Brent Bozell III and political consultant William F. B. O'Reilly. His mother, from New Orleans, was of Swiss-German, German, and Irish descent, while his paternal grandparents, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, were of Irish ancestry.[4]

Buckley attended Millbrook School, and in 1943 earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Yale University,[5] where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[6][7][8] He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942 and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1946. After receiving his Bachelor of Laws from Yale Law School in 1949, he was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1950 and practiced law until 1953, when he joined The Catawba Corporation as vice president and director.[9] In 1965, he managed his brother William F. Buckley, Jr.'s campaign for Mayor of New York.[3]

Political career

Buckley with President Richard Nixon on November 6, 1970
Buckley with President Richard Nixon on November 6, 1970


In 1968, Buckley challenged liberal Republican U.S. Senator Jacob Javits for re-election. Buckley ran on the Conservative Party line.[10] Javits won easily,[10] but Buckley received a large number of votes from disaffected conservative Republicans. The New York Times called Buckley's 1968 senatorial campaign "lonely and unsuccessful."[11]

In 1970, Buckley ran for U.S. Senate on the Conservative Party line once again. This time, he faced Republican incumbent Charles Goodell and Democratic nominee Richard Ottinger. Goodell, who had been appointed to the Senate by Governor Nelson Rockefeller following the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, had moved leftward ideologically, especially as an opponent of the Vietnam War. Buckley originally wanted to challenge Goodell in the Republican primary, but was not permitted to by state Republican officials; hence, he had to settle for the CPNY line on the ballot.[12] Buckley's campaign slogan, plastered on billboards statewide, was: "Isn't it time we had a Senator?" With Goodell and Ottinger splitting the liberal vote, Buckley received 39% of the vote, won the election by plurality,[13] and entered the U.S. Senate in January 1971. According to scholar Gerald Russello, Buckley "performed well in New York City itself, at a time when the city still had a beating conservative heart in the middle-class neighborhoods of the outer boroughs".[14]

In his 1976 re-election bid, with Rockefeller's liberal faction falling apart, Buckley received the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate along with the Conservative Party nomination. He was initially favored for re-election because the frontrunner in the crowded Democratic field was Manhattan Congresswoman Bella Abzug, a liberal feminist reviled by the right. But when Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, made a late entrance into the Democratic primary and narrowly defeated Abzug, Buckley could no longer count on getting the votes of moderate Democrats. Moynihan went on to defeat Buckley 54% to 45%.[15]

After his loss, Buckley moved to Connecticut, and in 1980 received the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Abraham Ribicoff. He lost the general election to Christopher Dodd, garnering 43% of the vote and winning one county.[16]

U.S. Senate tenure

In 1974, Buckley proposed a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If passed, the Amendment would have defined the term "person" in the Fourteenth Amendment to include the embryo.[citation needed] His enacted legislation includes the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that governs use of student records and the Protection of Pupils' Rights Act (PPRA) that requires parent notification, right to review, and consent for administration of student surveys to minors if the survey collects information on any of eight specified topics.[17]

In the spring of 1974, with the Watergate scandal continuing to grow in magnitude and seriousness, Buckley surprised and, in some cases, angered some of his allies among Republicans when he called upon the increasingly-embattled Richard M. Nixon to voluntarily resign the presidency.[18] Buckley said that in doing so, he was making no judgment as to Nixon's technical legal guilt or innocence of the accusations made against him and in fact denounced those "in and out of the media who have been exploiting the Watergate affair so recklessly" in what he called an effort "to subvert the decisive mandate of the 1972 election." However, he said that the burgeoning scandal might result in an impeachment process that would tear the country even further apart and so he declared: "There is one way and one way only by which the crisis can be resolved, and the country pulled out of the Watergate swamp. I propose an extraordinary act of statesmanship and courage—an act at once noble and heartbreaking; at once serving the greater interests of the nation, the institution of the Presidency, and the stated goals for which he so successfully campaigned"—Nixon's resignation.[19] Buckley was the first major conservative figure to call for resignation. Nixon did not resign at that time but eventually did lose the support of key Republican figures, including Senator Barry Goldwater.[20] Nixon ultimately resigned on August 9, 1974.[21]

Buckley was the lead petitioner in a landmark Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo (1976), which "shaped modern campaign-finance law".[14]

1976 Republican National Convention

During the 1976 Republican National Convention, then-Senator Jesse Helms encouraged a "Draft Buckley" movement in an effort to stop the nomination of Ronald Reagan for President. (Reagan had announced that Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker would be his running mate; Helms objected to this decision, believing Schweiker to be too liberal.) The "Draft Buckley" movement was rendered moot when President Gerald Ford narrowly won the party's nomination on the first ballot.[22][23]

Post-Senate career

Buckley with President Ronald Reagan on November 3, 1982
Buckley with President Ronald Reagan on November 3, 1982

After his loss in the 1976 election, Buckley worked for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, becoming a member of the executive committee and of its board of directors and eventually advancing to the position of corporate director.[24]

After his loss in Connecticut, Buckley served as an undersecretary of State for security assistance starting in 1981 in the first Reagan administration, which handled military aid to strategically located countries, and then as President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich from 1982 to 1985.[25][26][27]

U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.

On October 16, 1985, Buckley was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The seat had previously been held by Judge Edward Allen Tamm. Buckley was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 17, 1985 and received commission on December 17, 1985. He assumed senior status on August 31, 1996.[9]

Personal life

In 1953, Buckley married Ann Cooley Buckley, who was employed by the CIA; they had a daughter and five sons.[3] She was rendered paraplegic by a car accident in 2006 and died on December 30, 2011.[28]

He retired from public and private service in 2000 and now resides in Bethesda, Maryland.[26]

During his service on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Buckley stated that he loved watching birds, polar bears, and other wild creatures in their habitats. “I have always been fascinated by nature...,” he said. As a child, “[he] would have odd pets — at one time or another, a crow, a cooper’s hawk, a flying squirrel, a woodchuck... Since [he has] been on the court, [he has] watched polar bears on three occasions. If you do something like this, you escape into a totally different world.”[26]

Upon the death of Ernest F. Hollings in April 2019, Buckley became the oldest living current or former member of the U.S. Senate.[29]


Buckley is the author of the following books:

Buckley discussed Freedom at Risk on C-SPAN on January 12, 2011.[34] Buckley’s last book, “Saving Congress From Itself”, was sent to every member of the U.S. Senate by Dallas businessman and Buckley family devotee Chris M. Lantrip.


  1. ^ Taranto, James (August 1, 2014). "Nine Decades at the Barricades". Wall Street Journal – via www.wsj.com.
  2. ^ "Ancestry of William F. Buckley". www.wargs.com.
  3. ^ a b c "Hon. James L. Buckley: Oral History Text & Documentation". Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  4. ^ "The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time". University Microfilms. January 1, 1967 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (November 5, 1970). "Tenacious Senator‐Elect". The New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  6. ^ Alexandra Robbins, Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, Little, Brown and Company, 2002, page 168, 174
  7. ^ "People in the News", Associated Press, May 27, 1983
  8. ^ Bob Dart, "Skull and bones a secret shared by Bush, Kerry", The Gazette, March 7, 2004
  9. ^ a b "Buckley, James Lane - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  10. ^ a b "Our Campaigns - NY US Senate Race - Nov 05, 1968". www.ourcampaigns.com.
  11. ^ Carroll, Maurice (November 3, 1976). "Moynihan Defeats Buckley For New York Senate Seat". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  12. ^ Roberts, Sam (April 7, 1970). "Conservatives Set to Rename Buckley". Daily News. New York. p. 106 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY US Senate Race - Nov 03, 1970". www.ourcampaigns.com.
  14. ^ a b Russello, Gerald. "Mr. Buckley Goes to Washington", The American Conservative, April 11, 2011, quoted in review of Freedom at Risk, Retrieved June 17, 2019
  15. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY US Senate Race - Nov 02, 1976". www.ourcampaigns.com.
  16. ^ "Our Campaigns - CT US Senate Race - Nov 04, 1980". www.ourcampaigns.com.
  17. ^ "James L. Buckley". www.congress.gov. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  18. ^ "Why Richard Nixon Should Resign the Presidency". The National Review. 1974.
  19. ^ "The Resignation Question". The New York Times. March 24, 1974. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  20. ^ Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995), Barry Goldwater, the standard scholarly biography, page 282
  21. ^ "August 9th in History: The Resignation of Richard Nixon". August 9, 2016.
  22. ^ World Almanac and Book of Facts 1977
  23. ^ "Vanderbilt Television News Archive". Tvnews.vanderbilt.edu. August 11, 1976. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  24. ^ "People and Business; Ex‐Senator Buckley Joins Firm Of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette". The New York Times. May 10, 1977. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  25. ^ "James Buckley on 2016: 'I am an unhappy man': Column". USA TODAY.
  26. ^ a b c "Hon. James L. Buckley". fedsoc.org. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  27. ^ Nugent, Catherine. "Buckley, James L." Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  28. ^ "Mrs. Ann Buckley". Republican American. January 1, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  29. ^ Kilgore, Ed (April 8, 2019). "With Ernest Hollings's Death, New York's James Buckley Now Oldest Ex-Senator". Intelligencer.
  30. ^ Wills, Garry (March 4, 1976). "Cato's Gang" – via www.nybooks.com.
  31. ^ "Dinner with the Buckleys". National Review. June 30, 2010.
  32. ^ "The Buckley Stops Here". National Review. December 14, 2010.
  33. ^ Andrew Kloster (March 20, 2015). "Review: Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States & Empowering Their People, by James L. Buckley". Human Events.
  34. ^ "[Freedom at Risk] | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org.

Further reading

U.S. Senate Preceded byCharles Goodell United States Senator (Class 1) from New York 1971–1977 Served alongside: Jacob Javits Succeeded byDaniel Patrick Moynihan Party political offices Preceded byKieran O'Doherty Conservative nominee for U.S. Senator from New York(Class 3) 1968 Succeeded byBarbara A. Keating Preceded byHenry Paolucci Conservative nominee for U.S. Senator from New York(Class 1) 1970, 1976 Succeeded byFlorence M. Sullivan Preceded byCharles Goodell Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from New York(Class 1) 1976 Preceded byJames Brannen Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Connecticut(Class 3) 1980 Succeeded byRoger Eddy Political offices Preceded byMatthew Nimetz Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs 1981–1982 Succeeded byWilliam Schneider Jr. Preceded byRobert McFarlane Counselor of the Department of State 1982 Succeeded byEd Derwinski Legal offices Preceded byEdward Allen Tamm Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 1985–1996 Succeeded byJohn Roberts Honorary titles Preceded byJocelyn Burdick Oldest living United States senator(Sitting or former) December 26, 2019 – present Current holder U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byJim Webbas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States Succeeded byLauch Fairclothas Former US Senator