Friends Remember Former State Senator - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/06/06

Friends Remember Former State Senator

For almost 20 years, Rene Kemp worked the halls of the Georgia General Assembly, looking for ways to help his community. Over the weekend, the former state representative and state senator died after a long battle with cancer.

We talked with two people who worked closely with Kemp about this son of Emanuel County, who left a huge legacy in Liberty and McIntosh Counties. But those who knew him best say his influence stretched across the map and across the issues.

When Savannah Tech opened its Liberty County campus, Rene Kemp stood like many others to cut the ribbon. But the man many called the Boss Hog had pushed nearly a decade for the project. His death over the weekend saddens many.

"Even though we knew the end was near, it's hard to believe you can't call him or go see him and talk to him," said friend and former legislator Buddy DeLoach.

Kemp served a combined 18 years in the Georgia General Assembly. "We said he could out-talk a jukebox and proved it true," said DeLoach. "In one campaign, he had to talk loud enough to talk over a jukebox."

In 2004, cancer forced him from politics. In his career, he championed many causes ranging from children to coastal environment to the rights of the mentally ill.

"I don't think about his accomplishments. I think about he was everybody's friend," said friend and former Hinesville mayor Alan Brown. "A good friend to a lot of people."

He also battled personal demons from the legal trouble of his mentally ill son, who burned the family home, to a DUI in Atlanta.

Despite Kemp's personal problems, his support in coastal Georgia never faded. In fact it even grew. "People loved him, and I think that was in response to his feeling for them," said DeLoach. "People know when you're sincere and you care about them."

Known by his cigar and his smile, friends and colleagues say Kemp was a colorful character who will be dearly missed.

Visitation for Rene Kemp will be held Friday night from 4pm to 8pm at Carters Funeral Home in Hinesville with a funeral Saturday morning at 11am at the First Baptist Church in Hinesville. Burial will follow at the family gravesite in Kemp's native Emanuel County.

Former state senator Rene Kemp was 70 years old.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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