Before Rush Limbaugh, there was Richard Viguerie. Many conservatives today listen, learn and heed the advice articulated by the radio talk show icon. But before Rush, conservatives for nearly 40 years looked to Richard Viguerie, the funding father of the conservative movement, for the “right word” on policy and politics. Before Mr. Limbaugh, it was Mr. Viguerie whose mail was delivered over hill and dale, through rain, sleet, and snow, to conservative donors and activists, prodding them to take action.

While he no longer funds an estimated 70 percent of the conservative movement’s revenues — a calculation made by his political enemies — Mr. Viguerie, who turns 70 this month, no longer has to, because Viguerie-trained acolytes are active from coast to American coast.

As a “graduate” of the Viguerie school of conservative activism, I attest to the influence he had, not only on U.S. politics, but on the many young men and women fortunate enough to have learned at his side. In fact, Morton Blackwell, another well-known graduate, deserves credit for the “funding father” tag.

Mr. Viguerie pioneered political “direct mail” four decades ago as the newly hired executive secretary for Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). Shy about personally visiting contributors, Mr. Viguerie realized he could contact 1,000 or 10,000 potential donors by mail without spending any more time, effort or money than it would take to personally solicit a single contribution from one potential donor. Thus was launched a storied career as the guru of direct-mail political fund-raising.

Legions of candidates, from the courthouse to the White House, have benefited from Mr. Viguerie’s expertise, and legions of others have tasted defeat as a direct result of his ability to raise money and promote action simply by sitting down at his typewriter.

This one-man financier of the U.S. Postal Service has mailed an estimated 2 billion letters during his careers. Some of them have been humdingers.