Jim Buckley of Sharon: Our loss is Maryland’s gain

James BuckleyPhoto by Sheila Clark

Jim Buckley was born in New York City, but when he was 3 months old, he was tucked into a bassinette and moved to Sharon. This week, 95 years later, he’s leaving.

In that four score and 10 years, Buckley has had a distinguished career — a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit (which ranks in judicial importance an eyelash below the U.S. Supreme Court), a U.S. Senator (the sole Conservative party candidate to be elected to a post at that level), Under Secretary of State and president of Radio Free Europe.

And, oh yes, he’s written five books. The last, “Saving Congress from Itself,” was in 2014.

The question I heard Buckley field with great style and modesty a dozen times, is: “What do I call you? Senator or Judge?” The answer is, “Just call me Jim.”

James Buckley was one of 10 children of the Buckley family. His father, William F. Buckley Sr., he explained, while a lawyer, was more of a land and mineral rights investor in Mexico “until they ran him out of town.” As a consequence, the family estate, Great Elm, a football field down from the Sharon clock tower, was filled with Mexican antiques. 

Jim Buckley and his late wife, Ann, were closely associated with St. Bernard Catholic Church in Sharon, and among other things, donated the antique bell that rings, bringing the faithful to Sunday Mass. He’d been living in a cottage on the Great Elm estate, and since his wife died two years ago, was alone there. In the spring he had a fainting spell, so under Connecticut law he couldn’t drive a car for six months (“Although I’d already bought one with the new automatic braking”) and got around town with a motorized wheelchair.

It was then he decided he had to move to a locale closer to his children and his Court of Appeals and State Department friends, and he bought a condo in Bethesda, Md.

On Sunday, Nov. 4, the congregation at St. Bernard’s held a bon voyage breakfast for him after the 8 a.m. Mass. There he was asked, for at least the 500th time, “Do we call you Senator or Judge?” and he answered, for at least the 500th time, “How about Jim?”


Don Rosendale is the retired vice president for public affairs to Trans World Airlines, and a former newspaper and magazine editor. He lives in Amenia, N.Y.