By ERIN ALLEN
Members of the Jack Kemp Family, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and members of Congress gathered at the Library of Congress on July 14 to highlight the late Jack Kemp’s unique career as a professional athlete and public servant and kick off the Jack Kemp Legacy Project. The private event was held on what would have been the 75th birthday of the former congressman and Buffalo Bills quarterback.
The Kemp Legacy Project includes Kemp’s collected papers at the Library of Congress, the creation of a Jack Kemp Chair in Political Economy at the Library of Congress’ Kluge Center for scholars, and an oral history of Kemp’s life and career.
“Jack Kemp was a beloved and extraordinary American, who could be as inspiring on a podium as he was on the gridiron,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “We are pleased to be able to offer his papers for future research, and his family’s support for further scholarship through the Kluge Center will benefit the thinking world for years to come.”
The purpose of the Jack Kemp Legacy Project is to honor Jack Kemp’s public service; to record, perpetuate and advance his contributions to American political thought by making them accessible to scholars; researchers and the general public and to help educate the next generation of political leaders.
“Dad was very clear to each of us that he believed his legacy to be his family, and so it is a special project of the family,” said Jimmy Kemp, president of the Jack Kemp Foundation. “The Kemp Legacy Project is our first project because Dad asked me to make sure that his papers were well taken care of. And, here we are. Thank you, Library of Congress. There couldn’t be a better place.”
After his remarks, Jimmy Kemp presented to the Librarian a check for $150,000 to endow the Kluge Center chair. “It’s an incredible pleasure, and I look forward to doing this much more.”
Fox News anchor Brit Hume moderated a conversation with Goodell, touching on current and historical issues – including football, politics and the power of ideas – central to the life and career of Kemp, who served as a member of Congress from 1971–1988 representing New York after his NFL stardom. Kemp also served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1989–1993 under former President George H.W. Bush, mounted a GOP bid for the presidency in 1988 and, in 1996, was the vice-presidential candidate on the GOP ticket.
Goodell, “the guy who holds the job that Dad most coveted,” according to Jimmy Kemp, called Jack Kemp “an extraordinary American leader who became a trusted colleague and exceptional friend to the NFL after his MVP playing career with the Buffalo Bills.”
“Jack believed so strongly in the positive values that football represented, and he helped promote those values over six decades,” Goodell said. “He devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the NFL and the sport of football, including as a charter member of the board of directors of NFL Charities and as the initial chairman of USA Football. His service to our nation was equally remarkable.”
Kemp was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama last August. Kemp died of cancer on May 2, 2009.
The majority of the Jack Kemp Collection at the Library covers Kemp’s 18 years in Congress, including records pertaining to the Reagan administration’s economic agenda. The records of his bids for the presidency and vice-presidency are also included, as are those from his tenure at HUD. Personal records include family photographs, coverage of his retirement from Congress and remembrances of his life and work in the aftermath of his death. His writings and a large personal library are also included, along with photographs and video from his football career.
“Part of the legacy of Jack is that he always believed in people and the promise in people,” said Goodell.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Office of Communications.