Jack Kemp, 1935-2009

Bill Kristol tells the sad news:
Jack Kemp--American patriot, fighter for freedom, apostle of opportunity, and a kind and generous man--has died at age 73. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his wife Joanne, and his children and the rest of his family. “He was a man, take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.”

It happens Mr. W. was working on a speech for a Kemp appreciation dinner when the word came Friday the dinner had been cancelled because Kemp was too ill to attend. So we knew this news couldn't be far off, but it's still shocking. No one ever seemed more energetic and full of life than Jack Kemp; it's impossible to imagine him sick, even when the update pictures come into your inbox.

His obituary from the AP. They rather understate his importance to the Reagan Revolution and the influence and inspiration he was to a younger generation of Conservatives. I like this NYT profile of him from 1987, except for the unnecessary marring of the story with a tabloid tangent. But it does get the flavor of the man: his genuine concern for civil rights, his relentless championing of the entrepreneurial spirit, his optimism:

Gingrich observed that Kemp ''has a silly, small-town, old-fashioned caring for his children, for his friends, for life if you will. He reminds me of Theodore Roosevelt, the sort of guy who jumps up as soon as it's daylight so he can go charging down the road to see the sky and the leaves. In a different era, you could hear Jack saying, 'Bully!' ''

His natural high spirits are enhanced by his religion. ''Dad leans toward the optimistic parts of Christianity,'' said Jeff Kemp, ''the ability to rise above the circumstances of life and the general view of our life as being in God's hands, so you're in your right place whether it seems bad or not.''

I can't agree with the person who said he wasn't warm. I recall distinctly the first time I met him. I think I was about 14 when I emerged from the Capitol South metro station on some summer time adventure and happened to notice my dad across the street talking to some tall fellow with a huge puff of hair who turned out, upon approach, to be Congressman Kemp. He did not take the arrival of a kid into the conversation as the opportunity to break away and go be important. He seemed genuinely delighted to meet part of his friend's family and asked a host of interested questions about my education and future. You'd have thought I was somebody. He also told me he hoped I knew my father was a great man. Which Dad thinks was said to schmooze him, and probably was, but I had few powers of resistance then and it charmed me forever.

Predictable first line of any Kemp speech to Conservatives: holding up his prepared text (which for a period of time was likely to have been written by Mr. W), he'd say,
I have a speech ready but tonight I'm just going to speak from the heart....
Annoying for the speechwriters, message-handlers and anyone who wanted the event to end on time, but delightful for the audience.

Will gather the appreciations here as they come. (If you read just one, read Mary Cannon's; just two, Cannon's & Gerson's)

Here's his last syndicated column: on Lincoln.
What Jack Kemp accomplished: Fred Barnes
We lost part of our heart today: Bill Bennett
Jack Kemp, My Teacher: Mary Brunette Cannon
An Appreciation of Jack Kemp: Gregg Easterbrook
Remembering Jack Kemp: Michael Gerson
The Importance of Jack Kemp: Jeffrey Lord
Jack Kemp, RIP: Jennifer Rubin
Paving the Way For Reagan: Ken Tomlinson

He was a champion of liberty. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.