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W.F. Buckley, Sr. in Mexico; 1908

William F. Buckley, Sr. (1881-1953) and Jocko; Connecticut, 1925, three years after being expelled from Mexico.

Bill Buckley was born in 1881 in Washington County, Texas, on the Brazos River. He and his family moved to San Diego in Duval County when he was a small boy and Bills father, John, became the Sheriff of Duval County, owned a dry goods store and raised sheep. The Buckley children were reared by Mexican ranch workers, nannies and cooks and Bill learned to speak Spanish, fluently, by the time he was six. His entire family spoke nothing but Spanish. After graduating from the University of Texas, W.F Buckley taught Spanish on the high school level and worked as a translator for the Texas General Land Office. He earned his law degree at UT and was admitted to the Bar in 1906.

In 1908 W.F. Buckley moved to Mexico City for a brief time, then invited one of his brothers to joint him practicing law in Tampico. Buckley and Buckley opened their doors in 1910, the same year the Mexican Revolution got underway.

Much of the Buckley practice involved land acquisitions and mineral leasing in Mexico's new oil play west and south of Tampico. William partnered briefly with Ed Doheny and represented the Mellon (Gulf) family in Mexico before creating his own company, Pantepec Oil Company where he drilled wells in the Panuco River basin and near Cacalilao.

By 1914, Doheny had discovered enormous oil flows in Casiano and the value of Mexican oil resources became the center of much attention with the government in Mexico City. Tensions rose between the US and Mexico over the governments unwillingness to provide Doheny protection from revolutionists. The then Mexican President, Victor Huerta, appointed Buckley as a sort of a liaison between Mexico and the US to cool the tensions, not a whole lot unlike putting the fox in charge of the Mexican chicken coop.

Buckley was above and beyond all else a capitalist and to protect his law practice and his and his clients oil interests in eastern Mexico he became very active in Mexican politics. He tended to align his political views with whomever could benefit him the most in Mexico City. The Revolution was problematic for all foreign owners in Mexico and Buckley became very outspoken against nationalist insurgents like Carranza and Zapata, often speaking to hundreds of Mexicans at a time in streets of major cities throughout the country.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 contained numerous provisions protecting Mexican resources from foreign ownership. But under Porfirio Diaz's presidential administration Buckley helped draft concessions made to foreign oil companies that allowed them to continue drilling in the Golden Lane along the Gulf of Mexico coastal plains. Buckley fought the good fight as long as Diaz was in power. He was revered by both Doheny (Huasteca) and Weetman Pearson (Aquila), the two largest foreign producers in all of Mexico, naturally.

But when Alvaro Obregon was elected Presidente in 1920, things went south for Buckley very quickly. Obregon believed strongly in protecting the resource wealth of Mexico from foreigners. This infuriated Buckley who then conspired to overthrow Obregon's administration, even to the point of writing a letter to President Woodrow Wilson asking for US military intervention.

In 1921 W.F. Buckley was allowed to gather only his personal belongings and a few law books in Tampico before being put on a ship and deported from Mexico. All of his Mexican assets were seized by the Obregon administration. Obregon was assassinated three years later.

Buckley eventually recreated Pantepec Oil Company in Venezuela and partnered with Standard Oil drilling big wells around and in Lake Maracaibo. He became fabulously wealthy in Venezuela and that allowed him to explore for oil as a true, rank wildcatter in places like Australia, Ecuador, Israel and the Philippines.

He died of a heart attack while sailing from Paris to New York in 1958.

William Frank and Aloise Buckley had ten children, all of whom learned Spanish and French at very early ages, many of whom became famous authors and publishers. James L. Buckley became a US Senator from New York and William F. Buckley, Jr. created the National Review and was a well known, outspoken conservative talk show host, political pundit and advisor to Ronald Reagan.

Bill, Jr. once said about his childhood that he was seven years old before his mom and dad allowed him to speak anything but Spanish in their household. His mother then taught him to be fluent in French. He was sent to a private school in England at the age of 9 to learn English.

Buckley, Jr. died in 2008.



[1] William F. Buckley, Sr. Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin

[2] William F. Buckley, Sr., Witness to the Mexican Revolution

[3] This young man on the left is Henry Flipper, the first African American man to ever graduate from West Point in 1877. After his service in the Army was unjustly ended, Flipper became a civil engineer and surveyor and learned fluent Spanish working in Mexico from 1906 to 1911. William F. Buckley met Flipper in El Paso in 1922 while in exile and befriended him. Buckley eventually hired Flipper in 1923 to work for Pantepec Oil Company, Venezuela as a surveyor, where Mr. Flipper lived until 1931.

Mr. Flipper's story is truly remarkable and this won't take but a minute to read. It is truly worth it:


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