by Kevin Alfred Strom
DR. REVILO Pendleton Oliver, Professor of the Classics at the University of Illinois for 32 years and one of the leading philologists of his time, read eleven languages, including Sanskrit, and for more than half a century wrote scholarly articles in four languages for academic publications in the United States and Europe.
Oliver was the possessor of a penetrating intellect — and a scintillating wit unequaled by few if any writers. He has been aptly compared with the great H.L. Mencken.
Dr. Oliver was born in Texas in 1908, and was an undergraduate at Pomona College, California. He obtained his doctorate under the tutelage of the highly respected Classicist William Abbot Oldfather at the University of Illinois. His first book was a copiously annotated translation from the Sanskrit, Mrcchakatika (The Little Clay Cart) published by the University of Illinois in 1938.
During World War II, he was Director of Research in a highly secret cryptographic agency of the War Department in Washington, DC, and was cited for outstanding service to his country. It was during his time in Washington that Dr. Oliver first became aware of the degree to which Communism — and, more importantly, the forces behind Communism — had penetrated the American establishment and had precipitated the fratricidal slaughter of 1939-1945. In the immediate postwar years he believed that the treasonous acts of these subversives would be quickly brought to light and that an awakened public would sweep an American administration into office. Confident in his nation’s future, he continued his pursuit of the scholarship which was, next to his wife Grace, his greatest love in life.
After his work for the War Department, Dr. Oliver was awarded a Guggenheim Post-Service Fellowship, and during the years 1953 and 1954 he travelled to Italy on a Fulbright Research Fellowship to study Italian Renaissance manuscripts.
Upon his return home in 1954, Dr. Oliver was alarmed at the progress made by the subversive forces in the United States, who had infiltrated both major political parties and the business establishment there — especially the media of information and entertainment. He made a fateful decision in that year, 1954, to devote all his available energies to what was then called anti-Communism or Americanism or conservatism, and which is today called by its adherents Racial Nationalism. For the next 40 years, until his death in 1994, he was a major figure in that movement, though in many ways an anomalous one.
Dr. Oliver made many notable contributions to his chosen cause: he participated in the creation of National Review magazine; he was one of the founders of the John Birch Society; he made numerous speeches before patriotic groups including the Congress of Freedom, the Steuben Society, the Indignation Committees, the Citizens’ Councils, and the Daughters of the American Revolution; and he wrote hundreds of articles and reviews for Modern Age, American Progress, Free Enterprise, American Opinion, Christian Economics, National Review, Nation’s Business, The American Mercury, Instauration, and Liberty Bell magazines. A collection of many of Dr. Oliver’s best writings from his first decade in the patriotic movement is contained in his book America’s Decline: The Education of a Conservative. That book also chronicles his eventual bitter disillusionment with conservatism as a political weapon for restoring America and the West.
Revilo Oliver stood apart — not only from his more “liberal” colleagues who accepted or welcomed the political and social changes forced upon the West after World War II — but also from his “conservative” and “patriot” allies who refused to see that much of the fault for our civilization’s decline lay in ourselves, in the racial and societal characteristics that left us nearly defenseless against an implacable, relentless, and clever enemy. In his most striking departure from most of his conservative allies, Dr. Oliver concluded that one of the major weaknesses of our nation and civilization was its religion, which had been, since the latter years of the Roman Empire, some form of Christianity.
We are fortunate indeed to have lived in the same century and the same world as Dr. Revilo Pendleton Oliver. And we are infinitely better off for the fact that he chose to share his genius and his insights with us.
We give him but a small part of the tribute he earned when we remember him with the words of Telemann, who said of another genius, Bach:
Then sleep! The candle of thy fame ne’er low will burn;
The pupils thou hast trained, and those they train in turn
Prepare thy future crown of glory brightly glowing….