As for many conservatives, William F. Buckley, Jr. was the person who primarily first PROVED to me that conservatives think better than leftists. Never engaging in ad hominem attacks, Buckley was the master of the reasoned, rational argument (if often made with worlds you may not have ever herd of before). Too patrician in background and manner to be wildly popular among the masses, he was nevertheless--by all accounts--a vastly charming and good person, with almost no personal enemies. I, unfortunately, never met him personally. His books often have a warmth that belied his patrician image.
Buckley has been superseded in influence by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the rest, but he remained a pioneer--THE pioneer-- of the modern conservative movement. To right up until the very end, he was never superseded in his ability to think and reason. He founded National Review at a time conservatives had no voice.
He will be missed.