William Kemp Jr., 86, lawyer, veteran

October 27, 2005|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

William G. Kemp Jr., a retired lawyer and decorated World War II veteran, died of heart failure Friday at his home in Elkton. He was 86.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Cliftview Avenue, Mr. Kemp graduated in 1935 from City College. He was attending Marietta College in Ohio when he left to enlist in the Army at the outbreak of World War II.

Trained as a parachute instructor, Mr. Kemp was sent to Europe as a parachute infantry unit commander after attaining the rank of captain.

While serving with the Office of Strategic Services, he parachuted behind German lines in North Africa and France.

"He was an expert in sabotage and demolition, and wore the uniform of an Army Air Forces pilot. After being dropped behind enemy lines, he worked with the French underground," said a son and law partner, Thomas L. Kemp of Elkton.

"He was dropped in France three days before the D-Day invasion, and said he was already working with the underground in anticipation of the invasion."

For his efforts during the invasion, Mr. Kemp was awarded the Legion of Merit for heroism by Gen. William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, founder and leader of the OSS, and also the Bronze Star.

"These fearless, hand-picked heroes, such as Kemp, did a good job which will live forever in memory," said a newspaper account of Mr. Kemp's wartime exploits.

"He was offered a promotion to major or $300. He took the money and left the Army as a captain. He said the war was over and that chapter of his life was closed. He never put on his uniform again and seldom talked about the war. He just moved on," his son said.

Mr. Kemp continued his college studies at George Washington University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1949 and his law degree in 1952.

After being admitted to the Maryland State Bar in 1952, he established a general law practice in Elkton. He was a trial magistrate for Elkton for 14 years until resigning in 1967.

Mr. Kemp retired from the practice of law in 1996.

"Even though he retired, he still kept a desk at the firm and made rounds at the courthouse," the son said.

Mr. Kemp was an avid skier, tennis player and golfer. He enjoyed reading and completing daily crossword puzzles.

"He liked reading history but nothing to do with World War II because he figured he knew that stuff since he had gone through it," Thomas Kemp said.

Mr. Kemp was a member of Elkton Presbyterian Church, 209 E. Main St., where services will be held at 11 a.m. today.

Also surviving are his wife of 53 years, the former Margaret L. Baker; another son, William R. Kemp of Colorado Springs; a daughter, Barbara K. Russell of Wilmington, N.C.; and nine grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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