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Our Mission is to uphold American liberty, prosperity, constitutional law, and humble government.
Farewell, Herbert London
Barry MacDonald is the editor of The St. Croix Review, and President of Religion and Society.
We lost a warm, generous, modest, brilliant, moral, and patriotic American on Saturday, November 10. Herbert I. London died of heart disease. He was a husband to Vicky and a father to Stacy, Nancy, and Jaclyn.
Herbert London’s essays have appeared regularly in the St. Croix Review since 1995. Ten years ago he came to Stillwater to speak at our annual meeting in November. I met him at the airport. He was a towering fellow of six feet, five inches, tall. He, my father Angus, and I, had a lively two days together. Herbert was engaging and easy to talk to.
On a trip to New York, my son and I visited Herbert in his office in New York City in 2006. He was welcoming and gracious. He didn’t go into detail but he touched on the experience of living through the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. He expressed his appreciation for the valor of his fellow New Yorkers.
I will always be grateful to Herbert because he recognized the worthy intellectual caliber and the patriotism of The St. Croix Review, whose operation arose in Middle America. I do regret not having had the opportunity to know him better.
He graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and earned a doctorate in history from New York University. As a founding dean of the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at New York University, he taught the Great Books of Western Civilization from 1972 to 1992. Herbert was the President of the Hudson Institute from 1997 to 2011; was a senior fellow at the Center for the American University at the Manhattan Institute; and was chairman of the National Association of Scholars and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Herbert founded The London Center for Policy Research in 2013, and directed the center until his death.
Herbert London ran for mayor of New York City in 1989, and for Governor of New York in 1994, and afterwards for comptroller of New York. Running as a Republican in New York was daunting, and he did not win. While New Yorkers lost the possibility of enlightened governance, right-thinking intellectuals gained a powerful and determined leader.
Herbert wrote thirty books, most recently, Leading from Behind: The Obama Doctrine and the U.S. Retreat from International Affairs. He also wrote three plays and countless essays. His commentary was featured in National Review, The Washington Times, Commentary, Fortune, Newsmax, and numerous other publications.
For a year Herbert was a host on CNN’s “Crossfire,” and he co-hosted the series “Myths that Rule America” on NBC, and “The American Character” on CBS. He was often heard on talk radio in New York.
Herbert was multi-talented. If not for an injury he might have made his living in the NBA — he was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals. He was also a musician who sang a hit rock and roll song called “Sorry We’re Not Going Steady” in 1959!
“Herb was a Renaissance man’s Renaissance man,” said The London Center’s Vice President, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer: “In all aspects, he was a peerless scholar and a visionary leader who knowledgeably and comfortably could discuss history, philosophy, art, science, and the latest baseball scores.”
“Herb was not only a spectacular leader, he was a good man,” said Laddyma Thompson, his long-time secretary and treasurer: “An amazing father to his three daughters, Stacy, Nancy, and Jaclyn; an effective instructor to young people; a brilliant mentor to professionals, both fledgling and venerated; and a devoted husband to his wife, Vicki.”
Deroy Murdock describes Herbert:
“The three of us met at a now-kaput restaurant called Bayamo on Broadway near NYU. Herb and I became instant friends and subsequently enjoyed countless lunches, dinners, and conversations. We often ground our molars marveling at the idiocy of Big Government.
“Under the aegis of the delightfully unspecific Center for the Study of Society, Herb organized lunchtime meetings of the New York Discussion Group. This usually involved an author or thinker who presented a topic for about ten minutes at a local club, restaurant, or high-rise conference room. Then, about fifteen to twenty of us journalists, academics, attorneys, and entrepreneurs would pepper the speaker with challenges and grill him with questions. This was like a doctoral defense, but with better food. At one such gathering, we pondered “teleological vs. ontological cosmology.””
“ ‘Deroy, it’s time for one of our Cassandra Brothers lunches,’ Herb occasionally told me by phone. We sat down in a local steakhouse or Italian spot (he was a confirmed Italophile) and, like the princess whose ignored prophecies sealed the doom of Troy, we feasted on the topic of how much better things would be if our many warnings to leaders in Gotham City, Albany, and Washington had not gone unheeded.
“Like many polymaths, Herb had his eccentricities.
“He never lacked for words in person. He could address any subject with facts, figures, perspective, and historical context, often going on at considerable but enjoyable length.
. . . .
“Since childhood, Herb was fascinated with hippopotami. His credenzas, bookshelves, and coffee tables overflowed with glass, stone, and ceramic hippos. A bartender once served me a beer bottle whose label showcased such an African amphibian. I proudly presented it to Herb who received it with a smile as wide as a hippo’s.
“Herb also had a stunning facility with names and faces. At his 75th birthday party, he stood inside a friend’s living room. He spent about twenty minutes methodically introducing his fifty or sixty well-wishers — not just those he knew well, but also the friends and even dates of his guests. He greeted and welcomed everyone by name, adding a humorous anecdote, intriguing detail, or quote about a recent column or TV interview by each of us there. This was the height of graciousness and a mentalist feat worthy of the Amazing Kreskin.
“Herb was dapper, too. His suits, sport coats, crisply folded pocket squares, and colorful ties were reliably exquisite.”
Herbert’s friends and colleagues, Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon write of him:
“. . . We prefer to focus on something more important, something often forgotten.
“For above all else — above Herb’s prowess as a thinker, a teacher, and an institution builder — Herb London was a mensch. In an era of bitter divisiveness, of ever coarsening discourse, of scorched earth politics, Herb was always gracious, always open, always decent.
“Herb would certainly have been forgiven had he been taken with himself. He was enormously gifted, accomplished in so many arenas, imposing, dashing, elegant, and urbane.
“But Herb’s accomplishments never overpowered his modesty.
“In Judaism — and Herb was very proud of his Jewish heritage — Moses represents the pinnacle of human achievement. The Torah testifies that there will never arise another prophet who will attain Moses’ greatness in communing with G-d.
“The Torah also tells us that Moses was unmatched in one character trait: Moses was the humblest of all men. Humility — not a quality generally associated with leadership in our culture. And of all the titles Moses earned: prophet, leader, lawgiver, and more, the one by which Moses is known best is ‘Rabbeinu’ — our teacher.
“Herb London's greatness was inextricably linked to his modesty.”
Sam Roberts, in an Obituary for The New York Times writes of Herbert:
“Herbert Ira London was born in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, on March 6, 1939, a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father, Jack, a lapsed socialist, sold fabric, leather, and vinyl for upholstery. His mother, Esta (Epstein) London, was a homemaker. He once described his upbringing as ‘Jewish Calvinist.’
“‘I always think about my dad because I think there are a lot of people like my father who could never understand why there were a growing number of people in our society who were feeding out of the public trough,’ he told The New York Times in 1994. ‘He paid his taxes and never derived any benefits from government. That’s why I refer to him as the quintessential forgotten New Yorker.’
“Dr. London was raised in Forest Hills, Queens, and graduated from Jamaica High School, where a teacher instilled in him a lifelong habit of writing at least one page a day. He helped lead the school’s basketball team to a city championship in 1955. Years later, he recalled a game in which he had scored 19 points by the end of the first quarter, with his team leading by 20.
“‘I felt confident of breaking the school scoring record and perhaps the city record as well, but to my dismay the coach took me out of the game,’ Dr. London wrote in 2012 on mindingthecampus.org. ‘I was furious. Yet in retrospect, he was right. Had I broken the school record, it would have come at the expense of a marginal team. Moreover, it would have embarrassed the other players. My coach understood what I did not.’
“He went on to Columbia College, where he played on the basketball team. There, originally enrolled in a pre-med curriculum, he was transformed by a course in contemporary civilization and humanities. Influenced by the professors Jacques Barzun, Samuel Huntington, and Daniel Bell, he pivoted toward an academic career.”
We readers and writers of the St. Croix Review will miss you Herbert London! *