By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Kansas City banker and philanthropist R. Crosby Kemper Jr. has died at age 86.
Accolades poured in Friday for the businessman, who was one of Kansas City's top civic leaders. Kemper died in California on Thursday night.
Funeral services are pending.
Kemper was chairman emeritus of UMB Financial Corp. and served in various roles across the company since 1950.
Born Feb. 22, 1927, in Kansas City, Kemper was the only son of R. Crosby Kemper Sr. and Enid Jackson Kemper. His banking career began when he was 22 years old at his father's City National Bank, where he was a night transit clerk where he met trains and sorted checks. He would progress in his stellar career to become senior chairman of the multi-bank holding company known as UMB in 2001.
He retired from UMB in 2004. At that time, his son, J. Mariner Kemper, became the sixth Kemper to lead the company.
By his children, Kemper was often quoted for the importance of "doing what's right, not what's popular," and served as a role model for civic activity.
He donated the money that helped build the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design. He donated extensively to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
"Crosby Kemper was tough as nails, unwavering in his support of our community, and a passionate philanthropist," said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-MO. "From the American Royal to the arts and far beyond, he will be dearly missed by many, many people for many, many years to come."
American Royal president Bob Petersen said it is hard to separate the name Kemper from Kansas City.
"Crosby Kemper was one of a kind: in his commitment, his passion, his leadership and his caring," Petersen said. "He cared about things. He cared about Kansas City. He cared about his community. He cared about the American Royal."
The American Royal is the showcase held every fall at the arena in the West Bottoms named after the family.
The museum bearing his family's name cherished his passion and vision. He was remembered as a scholar and story teller.
"As co-founder of the museum, he has directly or indirectly touched the lives of millions of our visitors over the last 20 years," Barbara O'Brien, executive director of the Kemper Museum, said. "It's quite a time to honor this larger-than-life figure, Mr. Kemper, who knew more about every work and artist in our collection than I will ever know. He's much more than the name on the side of the building. He was part of our daily lives."
Kansas City Mayor Sly James hailed Kemper "who dedicated himself fully to every endeavor he took on, from banking and business to arts and culture."
James continued, "Always a maverick, he showed us that a dose of independence and willpower can often move people and institutions forward more quickly than running with the flock. I always appreciated his engagement in our community and know that our city is better off today because he called it home. "
Kemper had seven children between his marriages to Cynthia Warrick Kemper and Mary "Bebe" Stripp Kemper. He is survived by his children: R. Crosby Kemper III, Pamela Kemper Gabrovsky, Sheila Kemper Dietrich, Alexander C. "Sandy" Kemper, Heather Kemper Miller, J. Mariner Kemper and Mary Kemper Wolf. He is also survived by 22 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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