The Bill Buckley of the Midwest


Influential Conservative commentator Stan Evans was deeply informed and very versatile.

growing in Indianapolis I knew Stan Evans as William F. Buckley from the Midwest. He wrote reviews for newspapers and books. He could debate like Buckley and was a walking encyclopedia of facts and figures on why the Tory point of view should prevail over the big Liberals in government.

He was more subtle in his Christian worldview. I more recently discovered his faith by writing an entry about him for the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis for the city’s 200th anniversary in 2021.

At the end of his life, Stan was living near Patrick Henry College, an hour west of Washington, DC, and occasionally met the founder of the university, Mike Farris. Stan had visited the school a few times during his early years and came to appreciate it for its unusual mix of Christian faith and conservative political leanings.

His sympathy for the new college dates back to its beginnings. He was born in Texas and raised in Virginia. His grandfather was a Methodist pastor. Her father was a university professor and had worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. His mother was a specialist in classics.

Stan followed in Buckley’s famous footsteps as the editor of the Yale Daily News then studied economics with Ludwig Von Mises at New York University.

He continued to write for National review and other conservative publications, then became the youngest editor of the editorial page Indianapolis News, owned by my grandfather and managed by my father. My grandfather was looking for smart young conservative writers in the 1950s. “There are a lot of good journalists,” he told Time magazine. “But they are all arrogant leftists.”

Then he found Stan Evans, who was neither Cockey nor Leftist.

Stan quickly established himself as an influential Midwestern commentator. Politically, the conservative movement was a minority movement within a minority political party. Democrats dominated national politics in the 1960s and were very competitive with Republicans at the state level of Indiana. Nationally, the Tories won the 1964 Republican presidential nomination with Barry Goldwater, but were defeated by the Democrats and President Lyndon Johnson.

When Vice President Spiro Agnew (under Richard Nixon) delivered speeches on a liberal news media streak and a silent conservative majority, Squire The magazine mocked the speechless conservatives. “If the silent majority could speak, what would they say?” The magazine identified Indianapolis as “America’s deepest heart.” All we had back then was the 500 mile run and high school basketball – like in the movie Hoosiers. The magazine featured Evans and radio commentator Paul Harvey as influential Midwestern voices, noting their defense of free market capitalism and small government.

In the early 1970s, Evans became restless, demanding to be free from his editorial duties. He started a union column, moving to Washington, DC, and began commenting on national radio. He also created the National Journalism Center for student journalism internships. He was a mentor before the term “mentor” became popular. Conservative activist Richard Viguerie then paid him this tribute: “For us, young green conservatives in the early 1960s, Stan was our leader, friend and peer, but he was also the friend and peer of the most important conservatives in the country. of the time, including Goldwater, Buckley, Russell Kirk, Brent Bozell Jr. and Frank Meyer. “

Stan never identified with the religious right as it emerged in the late 1970s and helped Ronald Reagan win the 1980 presidential election. He saw himself as a believing Christian without being good at it. “I am definitely a believer,” he once explained in an interview. “Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a particularly pious person and that I do not consider myself a particularly good Christian. I am a believing Christian.

Although he never signed with the religious right, Evans went on to offer substantial research for the movement in his 1995 book, The theme is Freedom, Religion, Politics and American Tradition. It goes in depth to show how the Christian faith was the foundation of the American conservative movement. He also maintains that the Christian faith is the foundation of liberty, or liberty, as we know it in America and often take for granted.

The book helped me see her Christian faith more clearly. It traces the origins of Western political freedom to medieval Christian philosophy and famous names such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, then through the Reformation and the beginnings of American history. Like Francis Schaeffer in How should we live then (1977), Evans offers a stark contrast between the law-oriented American Revolution and the anarchy and anarchy of the French Revolution a few years later. “Rather than trying to overthrow the existing order, the American War of Independence was an effort to preserve that order,” he writes, explaining how the Founding Fathers defended their common law rights in the British tradition.

Most daily news reporters can’t make the difficult transition from writing maturity stories to book chapters, footnote quotes, and in-depth research. Stan excelled in both calls.

Now I can see better how versatile he was, from daily commentaries to news about the rise of Western Civilization. If he had been a few years younger, he could have joined any university faculty and taught courses in journalism, political science, history and philosophy. His sympathy for Patrick Henry College fits well with a school that aspires to educate current affairs commentators, world-class debaters, and top academic scholars in the Stan Evans tradition.

The Bill Buckley of the Midwest

Russell Pulliam is a columnist and associate editor at Indianapolis Star and the director of the Pulliam scholarship.