Samuel T. Francis Samuel T. Francis

Western Civilization
and the great legacies of
Sam Francis and Joe Sobran
and their allies

Joseph Sobran Joseph Sobran

March 23, 2020

Jon Utley: The Happy Warrior

by Robert A. Schadler

A most unusual member of the already idiosyncratic, individualistic, conservative movement.

Born in Moscow into a family whose mother was English and father Russian Jewish. His father, although a Communist, died in the GULAG. His mother, finally disenchanted, was able to return to England because of her social connections there and the fact that she had kept her British citizenship and put her infant on her passport.

Her friend, the world-famous philosopher, Bertrand Russell, gave them shelter. My fondest story Jon told was, as a child, his memory of the brilliant, socialist was that of Jon trying to teach Russell how to play monopoly, with limited success.

Family friend provided for their passage to the United States. Already a contrarian, as a toddler, as the ship arrived in New York harbor, he noticed all the passengers on one side of the ship, looking at the Statue of Liberty. Concerned that the ship might capsize, he hurried to stand on the other side of the ship, thinking he would help "balance" it.

Now, as a firm anti-Communist, Freda Utley went back into journalism. Henry Regnery was the sole book publisher who had the courage to publish her many books. After attending Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, Jon began refurbishing run down houses, mainly in the Dupont Circle area (if memory serves). He was pleased to be able to buy a duplex, where his mother could live in one half and receive rent to support her with the other half.

He then spent well over a decade in Latin America in various capacities from selling insurance to selling phonograph needles to writing for newspapers. Later on, he went to Middlebury College to study Russian, found archives about his father's death and made a documentary chronicling that horror.

At some point, his financial situation took an upward turn. He bought a house in McLean, which, by chance, happened to be a few doors from Richard Viguerie's. (He would later move to Georgetown, where he was a neighbor of Nancy Pelosi!) Active in a great many and various conservative causes, he was generous with his support as well as his friendships, which were unusually wide-ranging. He often bought a table at galas, from Catholic charities, the ACLU, CATO, and Atlas among many others. Long after most would retire, he became publisher of The American Conservative.

Among my memories: starting (and then ending) the "Henry Regnery Project" to post digitized books online to make some of the forgotten conservative classics available; giving him rides from the Weyrich lunch; restaurant dinners with him and another mutual friend or two; going to the Folger Theater to see Shakespeare, the Kennedy Center for opera (which he seemed marginally interested in), dinner and dancing at the Georgetown Club, getting him to once again attend a church service (once or twice), and lunch at Trump's Golf Club (when Trump himself came to lunch). He frequently commented that he thought it was our "European" background that brought an unusual comradeship to us.

As publisher of The American Conservative, he would constantly pass out copies at meetings. But always compulsively frugal (a trait we shared), he would collect, at the end of meetings, any copies that had not been taken.

Soft-spoken, happy, optimistic, controversial, opinionated and the sweetest persona on God's green earth.

Rest in peace you happy warrior -- who so hated war that he supported!