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KEMP ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

Welcome to the Jack Kemp Oral History Archive, an original collection of spoken recollections and reflections that illuminate Jack Kemp’s public life, his vocation, the ideas central to his commitment to public service, and the political world in which he moved.

 

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.

 

As Jack said time and again, “history matters.”  We hope that these wide-ranging personal experiences, judgments, and lessons learned will also serve as a resource for  carrying on the cause about which he cared so much:  the American Idea.

 

We are indebted to the support we received from the Conrad Hilton Foundation, the guidance provided by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, and the generous contributions of the men and women listed below who graciously consented to be interviewed.

 

Michelle Van Cleave
Kemp Legacy Program Director

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Al Bemiller

“Jack was fairly quiet person, as far as I’m concerned. He was a very smart individual, and he knew that he wouldn’t let a screwed-up pass bother him, and that’s what kept him—he just kept going. He wouldn’t quit. Jack was a tough—the thing I remember about Jack the most is his toughness.”

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Al DelliBovi

“Jack basically said he needed somebody to operate the thing day-to-day to help keep the trains running on time so to speak, and offered me the job. And I was frankly very excited. I was under consideration for a deputy secretary job at another department, which is the reason for the call. He had gotten wind of that and basically said that he didn’t want me to go the other way. But I was excited. He was the exciting domestic policy person, probably the most exciting of the whole Bush Cabinet, and you know, to be there was going to be a lot more fun than to be at some backwater.”

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Al Hunt

“It was by the late seventies I had formed, I think, a pretty close friendship with him… Jack used to love to go in front of groups, particularly if we’re out in Vail, Colorado it would be a bunch of wealthy businessmen, and he’d say ‘I want you to meet Al Hunt because he thinks all the problems of the world would be solved if you just paid more taxes.’”

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Alan Murray

“It’s pretty hard to find anyone else in the Republican Party over the last thirty-five years who didn’t achieve the presidency, who has had such an impact on the course of the national affairs of this country.”

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Alan Reynolds

“I was like cub reporter at The Wall Street Journal. The only reason I was allowed to cover the damn thing was because nobody thought it was going to happen. The President didn’t think it was going to happen.”

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Allan Ryskind

“Jack would be about maybe next-to-last or something like that, and he would just, as people know, be a little bit verbose from time to time. It was 20 minutes, a half-hour, 45 minutes past, he’s still not moving, and Senator Hatch is the one who’s supposed to speak next. So somebody runs up to Jack and says, ‘Senator Hatch is here, it’s over time’ and all that, and he takes it and he actually ripped it up. He ripped it up and he talked again for another half-hour. So after that we scheduled Jack last. He was the last person to speak so that nobody else would come in.”

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Art Laffer

“Jude Wanniski told me about this freshman congressman coming from Buffalo who was a football player, and that he was open to our ideas, to growth, and was very pro-growth, and I’ve got to get there and meet him and talk to him.”

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Barron Hilton

“My earliest memory of Jack Kemp was not on the gridiron, but in my living room in Santa Monica. He exuded all the confidence of a born winner, yet he had not thrown his first pass in the fledgling American Football League.”

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Benjamin Netanyahu

“First of all, he was a totally reliable and constant friend. He was an ally in the deepest sense of the word, and it didn’t make any difference what the prevailing mood was.”

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Bill Bradley

“I’d known about Jack Kemp before 1978, because he was in the football players and I was in the basketball players union, and he had supported a merger of the two leagues, AFL and NFL, which was really an amendment to an Appropriations or Finance Committee bill by Russell Long, that allowed the two to merge without violating antitrust laws. In the basketball players, we took a different tact. We challenged the situation in the court and fought against a legislative fix.”

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