Dr. Gary L. McDowell, professor emeritus at the University of Richmond, died last week. He leaves behind a loving family and a legion of grateful students, of which I am one.
His work, both in academia and in government, advanced the conservative movement and illuminated its intellectual foundations. At the U.S. Department of Justice, he helped Attorney General Edwin Meese articulate the then-revolutionary case for originalism. As a scholar, he championed the Founders’ Constitution while his peers increasingly discounted their intent and design.
His scholarship was prolific, reaching back into the early 1980s. It was wonderfully varied too: He was an expert on folk music, writing about Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly when he wasn’t contemplating James Madison and John Marshall.
Through his work as the director of the Institute for United States Studies (IUSS) at the University of London, Dr. McDowell developed a friendship with Prime Minister Margret Thatcher; few Americans better understood the Iron Lady or her moment.
It was during his time in the United Kingdom that I first met Dr. McDowell, as a student at the IUSS. I was with him briefly, just nine months, but his dedication to free inquiry and open debate — the basic principles of America’s political system — lasted long after. I reached out to him recently, seeking his thoughts as we chart a path forward for the conservative movement. We had not talked in years, but immediately I was his student again. As was his custom, Dr. McDowell went above and beyond to help.
Until his last days, he took ideas seriously and treated people generously. These are his legacies and they will not be forgotten. He spent his life advancing the common good so that in his stead others might keep the lamp of liberty burning.
Todd Young is a U.S. Senator from Indiana
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