On the Passing of Judd Magilnick

Life has certain strange and wonderful coincidences and one of those is my intersection with Judd Magilnick personally and professionally. 

Yesterday, on leaning of Judd's passing, we rushed to find a picture to go with David Horowitz's beautiful recollection of him, and I ended up digging up this photo of him from my wedding.

Judd liked to say that the David Horowitz Freedom Center's predecessor, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture got started in his garage. And although this was long before my time either with the Freedom Center or knowing him personally, there was no question of Judd's formidable intelligence or his passionate conservative values.

David Horowitz has already written beautifully about his time with Judd and his role in the Freedom Center. I have much less to contribute in that regard.

When I briefly stayed with Judd and Denise before attending the birthday party of a valued Freedom Center member, it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know a man I had largely met in passing. During the pandemic, I largely interacted with Judd online, via social media, where he continued fighting the good fight, while occasionally writing posts on conservative issues. These were reminders that while the virus may have isolated many people, they didn't sequester his intellect or his drive. When someone passes away, you suddenly try to recall your last conversation with them, beyond the trivial exchanges on Twitter, and what once happened in passing becomes deeply precious.

In its own way, I think this article of his from 13 years ago best speaks to this question.

 A war of minds requires ideas — and our reluctance to play either the “religion” card or the “empire” card ties one and half hands behind our back. Beyond that, to understand the true potential of Crispins Day requires an understanding of why Prince Hal’s speech still casts a spell on those who hear it.

Centuries pass, the historical setting becomes irrelevant to our current concerns, and yet we cannot let go. The men at Agincourt will always “be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.”

Judd Magilnick did a great many things in his life. And that's barely an exaggeration. 

Among other things, he made films. Here's how he got started.

And when we got to high school, Judd decided to run for student council. A friend of his family made stickers for him, in an era where that was exotic, they said “Hey Bud, Vote For Jud.” Yes, they spelled his name wrong. We laughed about it. And now I remember another, “You won’t relish Diane Melish.” That was his opponent. Judd won.

And in geometry, there were too many students, not enough seats, so Judd and I sat at a table in the front of the room. Judd would crack jokes throughout the class, we all did, that’s what made the class interesting, Mrs. Spitalny laughed along with us. And I’ll never forget, we’re studying imaginary numbers, and Judd sings in my ear…”These i’s…” Yes, the Guess Who song was a hit then. And Judd was famous for his puns. Literally, he seemed to have introduced them to the school and he was an endless fount of them.

Another hip teacher was Mrs. Hurley. She took us to see Janis Ian in New York. Actually, Judd started a film company, Halcyon Films, and used the end of “Society’s Child” in his first movie. Ultimately I was his sound man, because I knew how to use a Nagra, for a film he made for the Town of Fairfield, but making a movie back then…that was rare, making one on your phone was science fiction, not even something we dreamt about.

And he went on doing it, along with everything else he was doing.

It's all too easy for those of us who fight the good fight to feel like we could easily be forgotten. In the past few years, I've seen activists, writers, and thinkers whose names were not widely known outside their circle go this route. The Freedom Center's obituary written by David Horowitz is a powerful reminder that Judd won't be forgotten. 

In passing, he leaves behind his children and grandchildren, and his wonderful wife Denise, whom I could never imagine apart from each other, but also the work he has done helping build a conservative resistance.

May he always be "freshly remembered".