On Wednesday, February 27, 2008 William F. Buckley Jr. died in his home in New York City. Why is this of note to readers of this blog? Well, stay tuned and find out.
Buckley was a nationally renowned figure and the premiere intellectual conservative in the United States. He is also responsible, many would argue, with the shape and form of the Republican Party that dominated American politics the last quarter century. However, the Buckleys were not always Republican; in fact, Buckley’s grandfather, John Buckley reportedly was among the founders of the Democratic Party in Duval County, although this may be questionable.
In the fall of 1882, John Buckley moved to San Diego from Washington-on-the-Brazos in search for more suitable climate for his asthmatic condition. He was born in Ontario, Canada and made his way down to Texas to raise sheep. Archie Parr moved the same year to Duval County. John Buckley was 10 years older than Parr and, although they would cross paths from time to time, Buckley would become a political force in Duval County years before Parr decided to take a plunge into politics.
Soon after his arrival in town, Buckley joined the San Diego Gun Club, which was the social club to join for men in the county. He was not a very good shooter, coming in dead last in his first event. Within months, he had improved so much that he came in first in a match shoot against the Corpus Christi Gun Club who had traveled to San Diego for a match. Buckley boasted the San Diego Gun Club was not afraid of any club in the state.
Two years after arriving in Duval County, Buckley won election as Assessor. In 1886, Buckley was among 38 delegates that bolted the local Democratic Party Convention. The Democrats that stayed at the Courthouse Convention accused the bolters of, among other things, being Republicans. Buckley represented Precinct 1 at the split convention and the convention named him a delegate to the Congressional Convention. In 1888, Democrats named a delegate to the Representative District Convention after Capt. E. N. Gray declined to serve.
That same year, Buckley and Parr served on the same jury that heard a case transferred from Starr County against A. Dillard and Victor Sebree for murder of Abram Resendez. Dillard was a Texas Ranger. The trial ended in a hung jury, with 11 for conviction and one for acquittal.
Buckley also joined a group of “Mexican Texans” called to select a ticket to challenge the incumbent county officials. The group nominated Buckley for sheriff. The county commissioners threw out Benavides and Rosita returns because they claimed the clerk failed to place the whole number of votes cast in the precinct, yet the votes for each candidate was plainly put down. J. Williamson Moses, the group’s candidate county judge, filed an election suit that ended up in the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled in Moses’ favor and most offices were overturned. The suit alleged that Republican forces loyal to the incumbents had imported voters from Nueces and Starr counties as well as from Mexico. Buckley took his seat as Sheriff in 1890. Voters reelected him in 1894 and he served as sheriff until 1898.
John Buckley died at the age of 54 in Rockport and a special train took his body to San Diego but his family laid him to rest in Austin.
John Buckley left five children, among them William Buckley who was a year-old when he arrived in San Diego. William Buckley became proficient in Spanish and became a close friend of Spanish-speaking residents. One of his early mentors was Father Pedro Bard, pastor at St. Francis de Paula in San Diego. After finishing school in San Diego, Buckley taught at a country school near Benavides. He went on to become an attorney and became a multi-millionaire oilman in Mexico before going to New York in 1921, where four years later William F. Buckley Jr. was born.