A professional quarterback who learned the value of leadership, teamwork, equality and competition; a leader in Congress who knew the power of ideas, human capital, and opportunity; and a Secretary of Housing and Republican Vice Presidential candidate who spoke passionately of the power of free markets and free people, and the history yet to be written of the free world.
Jack Kemp played 13 years as a professional football quarterback.  He was captain of the San Diego Chargers (1960-1962), and captain of the Buffalo Bills – the team he quarterbacked to the American Football League Championship in 1964 and 1965, when he was named the league’s most valuable player.  He co-founded the American Football League Players Association and was five times elected president of that Association.  In 2006 Mr. Kemp was named as one of the NCAA’s “100 Most Influential Student-Athletes.”  He was also recognized by Sporting News (2005) as one of the Top 50 Quarterbacks of All Time.

First elected to Congress in 1970, Mr. Kemp represented the Buffalo area and western New York for 18 years in the United States House of Representatives.  He served for seven years in the Republican Leadership as Chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Mr. Kemp ran for the Republican primary nomination for president in 1988, losing to George H.W. Bush, on whose cabinet he later served for four years as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He was the author of the Enterprise Zones legislation to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation in urban America and continued to advocate the expansion of home ownership among the poor through resident management and ownership of public and subsidized housing.
Jack Kemp received his Party’s nomination for Vice President in August of 1996 and campaigned nationally for reform of taxation, Social Security and education.  
From January 1993 until July 2004 he was co-director of Empower America, a public policy and advocacy organization he co-founded with William Bennett and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.  


In September 2001, Mr. Kemp helped form the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank to counter terrorist propaganda efforts.  He was co-chair of the Lincoln Bicentennial Cabinet (with former Congressman William H. Gray, 2007), the Council on Foreign Relations’ Russia Task Force (with Senator John Edwards, 2005), and chairman of the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform (1995), which promoted major reform and simplification of the U.S. tax code in order to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit, increase economic growth and expand access to capital for all people.
Mr. Kemp was the Founder and Chairman of Kemp Partners, a strategic consulting firm now headed by his son and partner Jimmy Kemp.
Jack Kemp was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and educated in the LA public schools.  He was married for over 50 years to Joanne Main Kemp.  Both are graduates of Occidental College.  They have four children (Jeff, Jennifer, Judith and Jimmy), seventeen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


In the space of four years, Mort Kondracke (lead interviewer) and Brien Williams (Kemp Oral History Project historian) interviewed over a hundred people who were central to Jack Kemp’s life and career.  Our goal was to enable future generations to learn about the American democracy of our time directly from those entrusted with its governance.  Along the way, we gathered some fascinating insights about our country’s recent past, including Presidential politics, competition on the playing field and in the halls of Congress, and the power of ideas. Click here to access the Kemp Oral History Archives.





The Library of Congress, the world’s premier archival institution, is providing a permanent home for some four hundred boxes of correspondence, speeches, notes, journal entries, articles, photographs and manuscripts that make up the written record of Kemp’s work and ideas from 1970 to 2009. Scholars, researchers, students, and other interested members of the public are welcome to use the Collection, which is housed in the Manuscript Division at the Library’s Madison Building. Click here to search the Kemp Collection.







The Library of Congress established the John W. Kluge Center to bring together the world’s best thinkers to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to stimulate interaction with policymakers in Washington, D.C. In that spirit, the Jack Kemp Chair in Political Economy at the Kluge Center provides for a senior scholar to spend up to a year in residence to engage in original research on the themes, historical developments and future public policy implications of what Jack Kemp called “the American Idea.” 

Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress, appointed Mort Kondracke to serve as the first Kemp Scholar for the academic year beginning September 1, 2011 and renewed for a second term the following year.  While in residence at the Library, Mr. Kondracke conducted research into Jack Kemp’s tenure in Congress and the influence of Kemp’s ideas and efforts on the Republican Party and the administration of President Reagan.  [See a video of his presentation as the Kemp Scholar at the Library of Congress here.]  Together with co-author Fred Barnes, Kondracke wrote and published Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative who Changed America (2015).



“The greatest world market is the market for ideas. From the Laffer Curve to money that’s as good as gold,

[Jack Kemp] sees a planet hungry for a vision that can bring prosperity and freedom to every nation on earth.  In places like the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and Chile, we see how economic freedom yields more than increasing prosperity; it also nourishes a powerful popular force for greater political freedom and democracy.”

– President Ronald Reagan