Russell Kirk (1918 – 29 April 1994) was an American political theorist, conservative intellectual, historian of ideas, social critic, and man of letters, who is best known for his role in the American conservative movement. Kirk’s 1953 book, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana, attempted without complete success to lay claim to the history and direction of the modern conservative movement. His book traced the development of conservative thought in the Anglo-American tradition, giving pride of place to the ideas of 18th century British writer and statesman Edmund Burke, an Irish Protestant who was sympathetic to independence for the American colonies.
Russell Amos Kirk was born in Mecosta, Michigan, in a house his grandfather built. He was the son of Russell Andrew Kirk, a railroad engineer, and Marjorie Pierce Kirk.
Kirk obtained his B.A. at Michigan State University, thanks to a scholarship, then took an M.A. at Duke University. After serving in the Army during World War II, he attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In 1953, he became the first American to be awarded the degree of doctor of letters by that university.
Kirk taught briefly at Michigan State. He resigned in 1959, after having become disenchanted with that university’s academic standards, rapid growth in student numbers, and emphasis on intercollegiate athletics and technical training at the expense of the traditional liberal arts. Thereafter he ridiculed Michigan State as “Cow College” or “Behemoth University.” He later wrote that academic political scientists and sociologists were “as a breed–dull dogs.” Late in life, he taught one semester a year at Hillsdale College, where he was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities.
Kirk frequently published in two American conservative journals he helped found, National Review in 1955 and Modern Age in 1957. He was the founding editor of the latter, 1957-59. Later he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation, where he gave a number of lectures.
After leaving Michigan State, Kirk returned to Mecosta where he wrote the many books, academic articles, lectures, and the syndicated newspaper column (which ran for 13 years) by which he exerted his influence on American politics and intellectual life. In 1963, Kirk married Annette Courtemanche; they had four daughters. She and Kirk became known for their hospitality, welcoming many political, philosophical, and literary figures in their Mecosta house (known as “Piety Hill”), and giving shelter to political refugees, hoboes, and others. Their home became the site of a sort of seminar on conservative thought for university students. Piety Hill now houses the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.
Kirk never learned to drive, calling cars “mechanical Jacobins”, and would have nothing to do with television and what he called “electronic computers.”
Source: Conservapedia. Web. 03 Nov 2014.
Photo: The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Web. 03 Nov 2014.