I was saddened to hear of the death on Monday of E. Victor Milione. He was president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for a quarter of a century, from 1963 to 1988; indeed, it would not be wrong to say that he built the organization. He had been one of the first scholarly young men recruited by Frank Chodorov in 1953 when ISI was still the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, though Milione was always more of a traditionalist than a libertarian. Meeting Mr. Milione and chatting with him at some length on two occasions was one of the true pleasures of my year at ISI.
He was an impressive individual: maybe a little over five feet tall, slightly built, and of course quite old, but titanic in the stature of his character and erudition. He had committed most of Tocqueville to memory, and he had a similarly commanding knowledge of 19th century British statesmanship. The first time I met him, for example, he explained to me Lord Salisbury’s concept of “military credit” and applied it to our present situation in Iraq. (Unfortunately, according to Milione, who opposed the Iraq War before it began, we now had to win the war at almost any cost, lest our military credit be ruined and other nations be emboldened to challenge us in the future. I can’t agree with Milione’s assessment, as much as I respect his learning.)
In our last conversation, in October, he asked me to look up a passage from Tocqueville that he remembered but couldn’t quite place. It’s a measure of the strength of his memory, and the feebleness of mine, that I’ve completely forgotten the passage that, age 83, he remembered very clearly. He remembered it clearly enough, in fact, that I was able to find the passage by putting it into the Google books search engine. His memory was superb, but not quite perfect: the passage he had recalled turned out not to be from Tocqueville after all, but from Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics.
I didn’t get a chance to relay that information to him, regrettably, but it’s a small loss to a life that was as rich as Victor Milione’s. He wasn’t simply a gentleman of a breed that has since disappeared, because he was of an exceedingly rare breed even in 1953. He exemplified the Remnant that Frank Chodorov had set out to educate, and Victor Milione served that Remnant himself all his life.