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Tribute: Jack Kemp, 1935-2009 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Tribute: Jack Kemp, 1935-2009

“When you participate in the Habitat movement, you encounter a true partnership experience. You find that the more we work together, the more we accomplish. Donors, volunteers, homeowners—everyone shares in the rewards of partnership housing.”
—Jack Kemp, Habitat World, June/July 2002



Jack Kemp


On May 3, Jack Kemp died at his home in Bethesda, Md., at the age of 73.

Kemp had supported Habitat’s work for more than a decade. His public profile—as a former professional football player, an 18-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development—helped attract attention to Habitat’s affordable-housing efforts. Between 1998 and 2005, the Los Angeles native chaired Habitat’s “More Than Houses” capital campaign and its “Rebuilding Our Communities” campaign, efforts that resulted in the construction of more than 150,000 houses. From 2000-2007, he served on the organization’s international board of directors.

Kemp helped build dreams in more individual ways as well. In 2005, the former vice presidential candidate helped dedicate Habitat’s 200,000th house in Knoxville, Tenn., personally handing over the keys to the new homeowners. That same year, he helped inaugurate the organization’s Gulf Coast Recovery Program. Through the years, he attended fundraisers and builds all across the country―lending his passion, his civility and his intelligence to a mission he so deeply embraced.

“We are grateful for the servant leadership and kindness Jack Kemp showed toward Habitat for Humanity and the families in need of housing that we serve,” says Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford. “Even as the entire Habitat family is saddened by this loss, Jack’s legacy lives on in the families who live in better conditions because of his efforts.”

As part of his capital campaign efforts, Kemp once wrote of his experiences with Habitat families in the pages of this magazine. “A prospective Habitat homeowner once said to me, ‘All I want is a piece of the rock,’” he recalled. “Well, that rock is the dream of ownership, the same dream my parents had, the same dream we all hold for our children and for their children.

“Often homeowners talk of how, for the first time, they have something to pass along to their children, a legacy of permanence, a sense of place.”

Through his many years of service, Kemp’s Habitat legacy—his commitment to the construction of affordable housing around the world—was to help create these other legacies, ripples of hope that continue to widen past where the eye can see.