- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

A diverse gathering that included football executives, politicians, friends and family gathered Friday at the Washington National Cathedral to pay final respects to Jack Kemp, quarterback, congressman, vice presidential candidate and a lifelong happy warrior for low taxes, personal liberties and political freedom.

Attendees, including his 1996 running mate - former Sen. Bob Dole - former Vice President Dick Cheney and Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, came together Friday afternoon to honor the man who represented the Buffalo area of New York as a nine-term congressman and as an all-pro quarterback for the city’s beloved Bills.

Mr. Kemp, 73, died May 2 in his Bethesda home after a short bout with cancer.

Mr. Kemp’s four children spoke of their father’s great loves in life, from football and politics to family and faith.

“My father was a man of great passions,” said son James Kemp. “One of his passions was passion itself.”

They spoke of a man who never yawned, kept piles of newspapers and books for inspiration, and encouraged them to look up to their heroes. His own heroes ranged from Abraham Lincoln and Margaret Thatcher to King David and fellow pro quarterback Bob Waterfield, James Kemp recalled.

Despite his father’s renown in the worlds of sports and politics, son Jeff Kemp said Mr. Kemp in his final days told his family he hoped his legacy would be “his family, our love and his faith in Jesus Christ.”

Mr. Kemp spent 11 years playing professional football, much of it as quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. During that time, he sustained 12 concussions, two broken ankles and a crushed hand - his throwing hand. But he led the team to two AFL titles and was named the league’s most valuable player in 1965.

After his 18 years in Congress, Mr. Kemp also served as an energetic secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the first President Bush.

Mr. Kemp’s ability to bounce back proved valuable in many parts of his life, said Charles Colson, one-time chief counsel to President Nixon and a longtime friend of Mr. Kemp’s who spoke at the service.

The Dole-Kemp ticket lost in the 1996 general election to Democrat Bill Clinton and running mate Al Gore.

“After the Dole-Kemp defeat, he kept his public voice and continued to fight for the things he believed in,” Mr. Colson said in his tribute.

It was there that he “showed his concerns for the poor. … He wanted to empower them [with] the American dream,” Mr. Colson said.

Upon their first meeting in 1971, Mr. Colson said, Mr. Kemp “had such buoyancy, such excitement, such enthusiasm. I thought, ‘This man is going to do great things.’”

“He was a man of courage - courage on the football field, courage of his convictions in politics,” Mr. Colson said.

Mr. Kemp, who labeled himself a “bleeding-heart conservative,” at one time angered some in his party for his activist stance on civil rights issues, not widely shared among his Republican contemporaries.

But his passing was marked Friday by a standing-room crowd at the mammoth cathedral, a gathering that included a diverse group of Washington dignitaries ranging from former Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, to former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Tennessee Democrat.

The service was led by Mr. Kemp’s family pastor, Robert Norris of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, who reminded those in attendance that Mr. Kemp made mistakes just like everyone else - including some infractions of the “no beverages” rules in the lobby of his church, he joked.

“For all of the multitude of honors paid to Jack Kemp, like every one of us, he was human,” he said.

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