It is hard to imagine a more important leader in the American conservative movement in the last half of the 20th Century than Henry Regnery. Henry and his Chicago-based publishing company were the essential elements in giving new conservative professors and authors a means to share their ideas with the reading public. Before Henry, it was extremely difficult for conservative authors to find any publisher for their work. Those ideas eventually laid the intellectual groundwork for Sen. Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964 and the presidential administration of Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989.
Mr. Regnery was born on Jan. 5, 1912 in Hinsdale, Illinois. He graduated from MIT in 1933 with a B.S. in mathematics. He spent two years studying at the University of Bonn, Germany but returned to America in 1935 to study economics at Harvard University. In about 1937, Regnery was an active member of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that was then active in helping jobless victims of the Depression. Regnery helped to start, and then later ran, a knitting mill in western Pennsylvania to provide jobs for unemployed coal miners.
In 1947, he founded Henry Regnery Company book publishers in Chicago to help conservative authors. But the company published other works as well including poetry. Among the early conservative books were God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr and The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk, Witness by Whitaker Chambers, and The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry M. Goldwater. The company also published works for the University of Chicago.
Books written by Regnery himself include Creative Chicago: From the Chap-Book to the University and Cliff Dwellers: The History of a Chicago Cultural Institution. Mr. Regnery played the cello and loved music. He was a long-time member and benefactor of the American Conservatory of Music.
Regnery became a member of the Chicago Literary Club in 1966 and served in several capacities as an officer of the club over the next thirty years. He presented twelve papers that were published by the club. Henry Regnery died on June 18, 1996 at the age of 84. His late son Henry, Jr. and then another son Alfred both led the publishing firm and Alfred moved the firm to Washington, DC in 1979. For a while it was called Regnery-Gateway.
Regnery Publishing was acquired in 1993 by Eagle Publishing in Washington, DC headed by long-time conservative businessman Tom Phillips. Henry's son Alfred S. Regnery, also a native of Hinsdale, Illnois and now living in Virginia, was still associated with the company until his publisher duties at American Spectator took up more time in recent years. Alfred and others make sure that many classic conservative books published by Regnery stay available on the web through The Regnery Legacy Project.