Opinion

Farewell to My Friend, Jack Kemp -- A Unique Republican

Jack Kemp was a personal friend for more than 35 years. We belonged to the same church in Bethesda and our children grew up together. His passing is not only a personal loss for me; it is a loss for the country and his Republican Party.

Next to Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp was probably the most optimistic Republican I knew. He was also a conservative advocate for civil rights long before many other Republicans would address that issue. Much of that was due to his football career and the African-Americans he played with.

In January 1965, he supported a boycott of an all-star game in New Orleans by the American Football League's black players after they had been refused admission to nightclubs and taxis in the city. Kemp helped get the game moved to Houston where black players participated.

In 1988, at the GOP convention in New Orleans, I attended a reception hosted by Jack. There may have been more African-Americans at that one event than in the entire GOP at the time. While Kemp tried to get more blacks voting Republican, that wasn't the primary motivation for his civil rights activism. His civil rights activism was based on principle.

Jack liked to say he was the only HUD Secretary with his own foreign policy. He had a great sense of sense of humor, an infectious optimism and a great mind, especially when it came to economics. He drove the Reagan tax cuts that launched our modern prosperity. To say he will be missed is an understatement. There is no other Republican quite like him.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

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