Jack Kemp, a championship pro football quarterback who served as an influential Congressman and Cabinet member and was nominated for the vice presidency of the United States, died Saturday of cancer at age 73.
Kemp, who played at Division III member Occidental, received the NCAA’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award, in 1992, and also was selected in 2006 as one of the Association’s 100 most influential student-athletes.
The 1957 graduate earned Little All-America honorable mention during his senior season while majoring in physical education at Occidental, where he spent spare time reading works by economists and political philosophers. He also was a record-holding javelin thrower in track and field.
Occidental is honoring Kemp today by flying the school’s flag at half-staff.
The Los Angeles native was drafted by the Detroit Lions and a year later signed with the Los Angeles (now San Diego) Chargers of the fledgling American Football League, but he made his mark with the Buffalo Bills, leading the team to four division titles and two AFL championships.
Upon his retirement in 1969, he held AFL records in pass attempts, completions and passing yardage.
He was elected to the first of nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971, representing upstate New York.
Kemp established himself on the national political scene as an advocate of tax cuts to stimulate the economy, and was the primary sponsor in the House of a 1981 tax-cut bill that was a centerpiece of the first term of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
He unsuccessfully sought the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1988, then served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the opponent who won the nomination and the presidency, George H.W. Bush.
He was nominated by Republicans as Bob Dole’s vice-presidential running mate in an unsuccessful race in 1996 against Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Obituaries of Kemp published during the weekend also credited him with efforts to involve minorities in the Republican Party, and recalled his support as HUD secretary for establishment of inner-city enterprise zones, as well as expansion of home ownership by the poor through resident management and ownership of public and subsidized housing.
Kemp, who was diagnosed with cancer in January, died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland.
He was eulogized over the weekend by another former Occidental student, President Barack Obama.
“Jack Kemp’s commitment to public service and his passion for politics influenced not only the direction of his party, but his country,” Obama said in a statement, adding that Kemp learned from his years on the football field “that bitter divisiveness between race and class and station only stood in the way of the common aim of a team to win.”
The Occidental office of communications provided information for this story.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association