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Conservative Writer Samuel T. Francis

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2005; Page B08

Samuel T. Francis, 57, a columnist and former editorial writer for the Washington Times and an outspoken voice of American conservatism, died Feb. 15 at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly after unsuccessful surgery to repair an aneurysm in his aorta. An area resident for 28 years, he lived in Seabrook.

Mr. Francis began writing editorials for the Washington Times in 1986. He served as the paper's deputy editorial page editor from 1987 to 1991 and acting editorial page editor from February to May 1991. He was a staff columnist from 1991 to 1995 and continued writing a nationally syndicated twice-weekly column until shortly before his death.

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He wasn't just conservative but proudly "paleoconservative" -- certainly not neoconservative.

Franklin Foer, writing in the New York Times in the fall, noted that paleocons and neocons have been locked in mortal combat for years, with Mr. Francis as one of the influential paleocon voices.

"Paleocons fought neocons over whom Ronald Reagan should appoint to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, angrily denouncing them as closet liberals -- or worse, crypto-Trotskyists," Foer wrote. "Even their self-selected name, paleocon, suggests disdain for the neocons and their muscular interventionism."

In his final column, published Jan. 27, Mr. Francis's principled disdain was on vivid display. He took issue with President Bush's second inaugural address, accusing the president of embracing "pop utopianism."

Bush, he wrote, "confirmed once and for all that the neo-conservatism to which he has delivered his administration and the country is fundamentally indistinguishable from the liberalism many conservatives imagine he has renounced and defeated."

Over the years, Mr. Francis wrote about terrorism, race, immigration, education and other issues that, as his Web site proclaimed, "no other nationally syndicated columnist, left or right, would touch."

His column on the 40th anniversary of the 1954 school desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education was an apt example. He described the ruling as "the most dangerous and destructive Supreme Court decision in American history."

Mr. Francis was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and received his bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1969. He received his master's degree in 1971 and his doctorate in 1979, in history, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

From 1977 to 1981, he was a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, specializing in foreign affairs, terrorism, intelligence and internal security issues.

From 1981 to 1986, he was legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. John P. East (R-N.C.) and worked closely with the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism. East was a member of the subcommittee.

Along with numerous monographs for the Heritage Foundation and other groups, Mr. Francis was the author of four books, "Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham" (1984), "Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism" (1993), "Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989-1996" (1997) and "Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham" (1999), a revised and expanded version of his earlier book.

Survivors include a sister.


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