James S. Kemper, Jr., the former head of the Kemper Insurance Companies who transformed the mutual insurance company his father founded in 1912 into a major financial services complex, died July 2 at the age of 88.
Kemper joined the Kemper organization in 1960. He was named chairman and chief executive officer in 1969 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979. He served as chairman of the board of the major entities of the Kemper organization—the Kemper Insurance Companies and Kemper Corporation—until 1986.
During Kemper’s watch, the Kemper organization expanded in both the insurance and financial services marketplaces. Besides its traditional property-casualty offerings, Kemper became a leader in low-cost term life insurance. The company also moved into reinsurance by forming the Kemper Reinsurance Company in 1969 and established itself in the financial services/securities arena with the formation of Kemper Financial Services in 1970.
Kemper also adopted a strategy of expansion through the acquisition of several regional property-casualty insurance companies, primarily in the Midwest and on the West Coast.
In 1967, Kemper was instrumental in the formation of the publicly held Kemper Corporation, a holding company designed to provide flexibility in diversification. Kemper Corporation was sold to Zurich Insurance Group in 1996.
Following his retirement as chairman of the board, Kemper served as a corporate consultant to Kemper on public policy matters and external affairs. He also remained chairman of the board of Kemper Sports Management, Inc. The privately owned firm manages the Kemper Lakes Golf Course, a public facility adjacent to Kemper’s Long Grove, Ill., headquarters.
In World War II, Kemper served as an intelligence officer in a naval aviation unit in the Pacific Theater.
Kemper received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. He received his juris doctorate from Harvard University. Before joining the company, he had law practices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Kemper was born in Chicago on April 8, 1914, and is survived by his wife, Joan; his children, James S. III, Linda Fair, Stephen, Judith Lewis, Robert, Christina Gidwitz, Dr. Terry Fotre and Jan Fotre; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, Ill. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Betty Ford Center, Rancho Mirage, Calif., or to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
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