William M. Schulz, the former executive editor and Washington bureau chief of Reader’s Digest magazine who was also an advocate for conservative political ideologies and causes, died July 22 at a hospital in Washington. He was 80.

The cause was complications from leukemia, said a son, Max Schulz.

From 1967 until he retired in 2003, Mr. Schulz was a Reader’s Digest editor, a period in which the magazine’s monthly circulation reached 50 million. In the Cold War years especially, “Bill helped keep the Digest vibrantly anti-communist,” author and journalist Dave Shiflett wrote in the Wall Street Journal the day after Mr. Schulz’s death.

Ed Feulner, a founder of the Heritage Foundation, described Mr. Schulz in an interview as a “reliable icon” for such core principles of conservatism as a free-market economy, competition and “keeping government out of areas where it did not belong.”

In 2005, Mr. Schulz and NBC newsman Ken Bode were appointed ombudsmen for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees public radio and television. This followed complaints that the public broadcast media was biased in favor of left-leaning TV and radio programs.

Mr. Schulz resigned after serving one year, saying he had other commitments. He found praiseworthy programming at PBS, The Washington Post reported, describing two NPR reports from Mosul, Iraq, as “first rate . . . insightful interviews” and “in all, two excellent reports.”


William M. Schulz was the former executive editor of Reader’s Digest magazine. (Family Photo)

William Martin Schulz was born Jan. 12, 1939 in New York City, where his father worked in a family typewriter business. He attended the academically selective Bronx High School of Science. According to a family biography his “conservative political views began to form during this period when he would attend lectures on political economy at NYU given by the prominent Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises.”

Mr. Schulz enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio, historically known as a bastion of liberalism, but left during his final year and moved to Washington to work for conservative columnist and radio commentator Fulton Lewis Jr., an outspoken anti-communist who supported the red-baiting witch hunts of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.).

William F. Buckley Jr. and M. Stanton Evans, two of the primary leaders of the nascent American conservative movement in the 1950s, were among Mr. Schulz’s mentors. He was active in Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth group, and began a long affiliation with the conservative magazine Human Events, continuing to write articles for its successor website well into the 21st century.

In 1960 Mr. Schulz attended a gathering of young conservatives at Buckley’s home in northwestern Connecticut that produced the Sharon Statement, a document of ideological principles for the American conservative movement. It espoused “limited government . . . individual freedom . . . the free market system,” and declared that “Communism must be defeated, not contained.”

In 1965, he married Lynne Canwell. In addition to his wife, of Washington, survivors include four sons, William Schulz of Chevy Chase, Md., Max Schulz of Dallas, Nick Schulz of Silver Spring, Md., and Ken Schulz of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; and 17 grandchildren.

Throughout his working life, Mr. Schulz operated mainly out of the public spotlight with little or no publicity. But he shared his ideas and conservative philosophies with luncheon companions at his regular table at The Palm restaurant in Washington, where for years he dined at least four times a week.