How Randy Richardson <br>Hewed to Values, Modesty <br>To Turn History’s Tide
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Just as William F. Buckley Jr. laid the intellectual foundation for the rise of modern conservatism, philanthropist R. Randolph Richardson set down the financial foundation of the new conservative movement. Randy Richardson, who died May 25 at the age of 89, is not a household name. He was stayed out of the limelight and made a habit of giving credit to others. Like Buckley, he was a firm believer in a free society, free markets, and a strong defense to defeat communism. The mark he made on the conservative movement is deep and lasting.
For two decades he was president of the Smith Richardson Foundation, which funded an array of conservative institutions and people. SRF changed our political map such that the principles of conservatism came to eclipse liberalism and expose all its flaws and failures.
To understand the scope of SRF between the early 1970s and the early 1990s, one need only look at the institutions financed by Randy Richardson: the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Federalist Society, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Law and Economics Center, the Institute for Educational Affairs, the Committee for the Free World, the Center for Individual Rights, the National Humanities Center, the Conservative Book Club, the Public Interest, the American Spectator, and the New Criterion.
SRF also supported Freedom House, helped fund Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and founded Radio Martí, and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.
Randy Richardson also made important contributions to supply-side economics, again going under the radar. He put up seed money for Jude Wanniski and his path-breaking book, “The Way the World Works.” He assisted supply-side economists Lew Lehrman and George Gilder and a congressional supply-side workshop directed by Bruce Bartlett. He funded Michael Novak’s “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism” and Jean Kirkpatrick’s research on dictatorships. He put money into Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” television production and Harvard programs from Chris DeMuth (regulatory policy) and Sam Huntington (foreign policy).
On June 11, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, in front of hundreds of friends and supporters, Heather Richardson Higgins said in her tribute to her father that his was “a life that made a difference.” Mrs. Higgins is keeping up the family’s conservative philanthropic flame as president of the Randolph Foundation. She pointed out that a full 66 people who had been SRF grantees went on to significant positions in the Reagan administration.
Leslie Lenkowsi, who served as director of research at SRF and is now a professor at Indiana University, added that “No other conservative foundation had more bang for the buck.” In What extraordinary accomplishments.
There’s one more piece to the Randy Richardson story. Though he rarely talked about it, Richardson served in World War II under General Patton. He saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, which put the final nail into Hitler’s coffin. Why is it that so many World War II vets — including my own father, who died last January, and who served as an Army Air Corps navigator dropping bombs over Germany and Italy — never talked about their military service?
That service delivered the freedom we know today. It defeated Nazism, fascism, and ultimately communism. It turned the tide of history. It came from the bravery and character of men like Randy Richardson. And from that freedom comes the godly virtues, values, and responsibilities that preserve the conservative Western traditions that make life worth living today.
Knowing Randy as I did, I have come to believe values were deeply embedded in his soul. And so it should not be surprising that he undertook so many noble causes during his life. As a Reagan supply-sider who believes in free markets, free societies, and the founding virtues of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I want to thank Randy Richardson. All Americans are indebted to him. May he rest in peace.