This is Paul Weyrich. He was the chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and the first president of The Heritage Foundation. He died this morning around 1 a.m. Read his biography, see photos and watch a video.

He was, at one time, one of Washington’s most visible conservatives but he was never ‘part’ of Washington. Where William Buckley, Jr. gave conservatism an intellectual tone, and Barry Goldwater infused conservatism into politics, Paul Weyrich wove together the social and economic strands of conservatism. This gave us our broad based platform we have today.

He was a driving force in the creation of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the Moral Majority (with Jerry Falwell), and eventually the Christian Coalition. All of these groups were controversial in their time, and some went out of existence, but in each case, Paul Weyrich’s emphasis was on creating tightly run organizations that were faithful to true conservative thinking.

Paul Weyrich had a big hand in both the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the coming of the Reagan Revolution during the course of the 80’s. He was a dedicated conservative, a true patriot who loved America, a behind-the-scenes visionary, and an excellent strategist.

The Heritage Foundation released this statement this morning on his passing:

“Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and the first president of The Heritage Foundation, died this morning around 1 a.m. He was 66 years old. Weyrich was a good friend to many of us at Heritage, a true leader and a man of unbending principle. He won Heritage‚Äôs prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Award in 2005. Weyrich will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, including son Steve, who currently works at Heritage.”

Is there anyone coming up that will replace him?

Paul Weyrich Biography

Paul M. Weyrich was born on October 7, 1942 in Racine, Wisconsin. He died on December 18, 2008 at the age of 66. He is best known as a conservative political activist and commentator, and for co-founding the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Paul became involved in politics while he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was active in the Racine County Young Republicans. As a student, he also worked on Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.

He spent his early career in journalism as political reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, he also worked in TV and Radio. In 1967, he became press secretary to Republican U.S. Senator Gordon L. Allott, of Colorado.

In 1973, with funding from the Coors Corporation, Paul Weyrich and Ed Feulner founded the Heritage Foundation as a think tank to counterbalance prevailing sentiment on taxation and regulation, which they considered to be anti-business. While the organization was at first only minimally influential, it has grown into one of the world’s largest and most respected public policy research institutes and has been hugely influential in advancing conservative policies.

In 1996, Weyrich was diagnosed with a spinal injury. From 2001 until his death in 2008, his injury left him in a wheelchair and in constant pain. Complications from a fall in September 2004 required the amputation of his legs in July 2005.

Paul Weyrich was married since 1963 to the former Joyce Smigun. They have five children.

‘Ken Blackwell on Paul Weyrich’ Video