Jack Kemp, 73, former quarterback ran for vice president

Associated Press / May 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Jack Kemp, the former quarterback, congressman, vice-presidential nominee and self-described "bleeding-heart conservative," died yesterday. He was 73.

Mr. Kemp died after a lengthy illness, according to spokeswoman Bona Park and Edwin J. Feulner, a former campaign adviser.

Mr. Kemp had announced in January that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, called Mr. Kemp "one of the nation's most distinguished public servants. Jack was a powerful voice in American politics for more than four decades."

The former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills represented western New York for nine terms in Congress, leaving the House for an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988.

Eight years later, after serving a term as President George H.W. Bush's housing secretary, he made it onto the national ticket as Bob Dole's running-mate.

With that loss, the Republican bowed out of political office, but not out of politics. In speaking engagements and a syndicated column, he continued to advocate for the tax reform and supply-side policies - the idea that the more taxes are cut the more the economy will grow - that he pioneered.

Mr. Kemp's rapid and wordy style made the enthusiastic speaker a favorite on the lecture circuit, and a millionaire.

His style didn't win over everyone. In his memoirs, former vice president Dan Quayle wrote that at Cabinet meetings, Bush would be irked by Kemp's habit of going off on tangents.

Mr. Kemp also signed on with numerous educational and corporate boards and charitable organizations, including NFL Charities.

He was a 17th-round 1957 draft pick by the Detroit Lions but was cut before the season began. After being released by three more NFL teams and the Canadian Football League over the next three years, he joined the American Football League's Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent in 1960. A waivers foul-up two years later would land him with the Bills, who got him for $100.

Kemp led Buffalo to the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championships, and won the league's most valuable player award in 1965. In 11 seasons, he sustained a dozen concussions, two broken ankles, and a crushed hand - which Kemp insisted a doctor permanently set in a passing position so that he could continue to play.