Collection Summary

The Firing Line Collection includes 1,505 records of digitized audiovisual recordings and transcripts of Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. from its time as a public television program between 1971 and 1999. In April 1966, Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. began as an hour-long public affairs television program on commercial television. From 1971 to 1999, the program was produced by South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) and distributed by PBS. With 1,505 episodes over 33 years, Firing Line is the longest-running public-affairs show in television history with a single host. Firing Line garnered an Emmy Award in 1969.

Firing Line serves as a prototype for point-counterpoint shows with its focus on the exchange of ideas through respectful debate. Viewers of different political backgrounds tuned-in for Buckley's distinctive mannerism, ecumenical tendencies, and formidable debates. Buckley interviewed notable figures in the latter half of the twentieth century including future U.S. presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, comedians such as Groucho Marx, political intellectuals such as Margaret Thatcher, celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, and religious figures such as Mother Theresa. Topics covered in the collection range, but are not limited to, urban development, sociopolitical movements, and global affairs.

Collection Background

In 2018, The Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford University added 1,505 records of digitized audiovisual recordings and transcripts to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting’s (AAPB) Online Reading Room via external links. Prior to the production of Firing Line, William F. Buckley Jr. founded the National Review, a magazine of conservative opinion in 1955. To preserve the Firing Line materials, the National Review agreed to donate all the tapes, photographs, transcripts, correspondence and copyright for the Firing Line materials to the Hoover Institution in 1980.