He was too young to leave us, and we’ll miss him now particularly badly.
Jack Kemp, a former Republican vice presidential nominee and professional football star who cut a path as a conservative purist and a fervent advocate of tax cuts, died Saturday. He was 73.
The longtime professional quarterback, who went on to become a New York congressman, presidential candidate, Cabinet secretary and vice presidential candidate, died at his home in Bethesda, Md.
Kemp was diagnosed with cancer in January, and his swift decline stunned friends and associates. A statement released by his family late Saturday said he died peacefully shortly after 6 p.m. “surrounded by the love of his family and pastor.”
“He was a bleeding-heart conservative,” said Edwin J. Feulner, a former campaign advisor and president of the Heritage Foundation who confirmed news of Kemp’s death. “He was a good friend and a real hero to a lot of us.”
Kemp first gained national prominence with the San Diego Chargers in the early 1960s and then went on to lead the Buffalo Bills to the American Football League championship in 1964 and 1965.
He used his popularity on the football field to win election from a Buffalo-area district to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1971 to 1989.
As a congressman, Kemp was one of the few members of the House — along with Democratic Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill — to have national name recognition. With his Kennedyesque hairstyle, boyish good looks, unbounded enthusiasm and raspy voice, Kemp seemed a natural to bring new energy and interest to the Republican Party when he ran with Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996.
The congressman was the leading architect of the Kemp-Roth tax bill, first proposed in 1978 with Sen. William Roth of Delaware, that proposed a 30% cut in federal taxes over three years. Kemp’s 1979 book, “American Renaissance: A Strategy for the 1980s,” contained what became known as Reaganomics during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and helped redefine the GOP’s economic identity. …
Kemp, as much as anybody, helped convince Reagan to embrace supply-side economics, designed to stimulate growth through tax reduction.
Kemp’s tax bill was defeated in the House, but a similar measure was approved two years later, offering a 25% cut in taxes.