David Franke was one of the original founders in the mid-1950’s. Here, he relates stories of M. Stanton Evans, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 80 on March 3.
I met Evans in 1970. We chatted on the phone from time to time. Not often enough.
His father was Medford Evans, a regular book reviewer for American Opinion, the monthly magazine of the John Birch Society in the 1960’s. He was a really hard core anti-Communist, anti-liberal. Stan was more joyful. But his father was a better book reviewer. He took no prisoners.
Stan often went for laughs. He is famous for this remark: “I always disliked Richard Nixon — until Watergate.” In fact, Stan was fired by the owner of The Indianapolis News because from the beginning, he thought Nixon was guilty, and he kept saying so in his editorials. He had been the editor ever since 1960, when, at age 26, he was the youngest major city newspaper editor in the nation.
The year was 1957, and we were the very first Human Events journalism class taught by Stan Evans. Thousands of students followed us over the decades, but there was nothing like that first time. For the next several years, we three students would have daily contact with Stan as our teacher and mentor, our friend, and our on-and-off roommate. What a blessing.
American conservatism as a “movement” didn’t really exist at that time. It was an intellectual idea conceived by William F. Buckley Jr. when he launched National Review several years earlier in 1955, the name bestowed by NR Senior Editor Russell Kirk in his book The Conservative Mind. There wasn’t even any consensus on the moniker “conservative.” I considered myself an individualist, others considered themselves libertarians or classical liberals. The Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI) existed to provide intellectual fodder for us youngsters, but there were as yet no conservative activist organizations. We would help remedy that deficiency in the coming years, 1957 to 1960. We were there at the creation.
What a blessing! I cannot imagine how boring it would be to be a teenager with too much energy and too little sense, where my biggest decision was whether to pursue history or math as my major. We were out to conquer the world, or at least to change it! We weren’t “normal” students.
Soon after the three of us arrived in Washington, Stan gave us our instructions on what we were going to do as activist journalists: “First, we take over the Young Republicans. Then we take over the Republican Party. Then we take over the nation. And then we defeat world communism.”
I am not making this up. You can’t make up something that preposterous and that precocious and that audacious.
We were the first Human Events Journalism Class, offered work scholarships to write for Human Events while we finished our undergraduate studies. Our pay was a pittance, but young people have a way of overcoming inconveniences like that. You simply cut out all human nourishment but beer and pizza.
Human Events at that time was an 8-page weekly newsletter–a four-page news section on what was going on in Washington and national politics, and a four-page article, written by a different person each week. Its circulation was only a few thousand, but it kept the Right alive between World War II and the formation of the National Review-Goldwater movement.
Human Events actually began as a series of Human Events Pamphlets published right after World War II in Chicago, the creators being Henry Regnery of later book publishing fame, Robert Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, Felix Morley, long-time editor of the Washington Post (hard to believe!), and journalist Frank Hanighen. They soon changed to the newsletter format, moved the offices to Washington, D.C., and installed Hanighen as editor.
Hanighen was coauthor of Merchants of Death, an exposé of the role of the munitions industry in World War I, and as such the first book to oppose what became known as the Military-Industrial Complex. As you might suspect by now, the Human Events newsletter was firmly in the anti-interventionist camp of Republican leader Robert Taft and the America First movement. It stood for the opposite of what the Republican Party and the conservative movement stands for now. Back then we routinely referred to the Democrats as “the War Party.” Sigh.
(For the stories behind the story, click the link.)