'Bleeding-Heart Conservative' Jack Kemp Dies at Age 73

NFL quarterback-turned-politician Jack Kemp passed away Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

"Jack Kemp passed away peacefully shortly after six o'clock this evening, surrounded by the love of his family and pastor, and believing with Isaiah, 'My strength and my courage is the Lord,'" the Kemp family reported in a statement released Saturday.

"During the treatment of his cancer, Jack expressed his gratitude for the thoughts and prayers of so many friends, a gratitude which the Kemp family shares," they added.

Among those friends was CCM star Michael W. Smith, who said Sunday that he was saddened by Kemp's passing but comforted knowing that he "is on the other side."

"He was a good man and my friend," Smith informed his fans. "His wife Joanne, children, grandchildren, family and friends will miss him greatly. Please pray for them."

Aside from being the running mate of 1996 presidential nominee Bob Dole and having been the AFL Most Valuable Player in 1965, Kemp will be remembered for his strong voice and consistent expression of Judeo-Christian values.

"His personality, enthusiasm, and energy made him a dynamic speaker; his personal integrity and deep commitment to his faith made him especially effective when speaking to Christian citizens about their responsibility to be involved in shaping national policy," recalled Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America.

"He was especially effective in challenging Christians to become involved in rescuing inner city youth and rebuilding America's major cities," she added Monday.

On Jan. 7, Kemp announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing tests but gave no other details.

The "bleeding-heart conservative" had served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years and as the 9th U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for nearly four, before concluding his tenure in 1993. Kemp had since remained outspoken on political issues and was even considered a serious contender for the 2000 presidential elections.

He died Saturday at the age of 73.