J. William "Bill" Kemp, Jr.

December 7, 1942 ~ November 24, 2019 (age 76)


J. William “Bill” Kemp, Jr., 76, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Mary Washington, died peacefully at his home November 24, 2019.  Born in Carthage, MS on December 7, 1942, to Burma Wilkins Kemp and James William Kemp, Bill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Millsaps College, an M. A. from Mississippi State University, and a PhD from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  In a career that spanned 35 years, he earned recognition as a powerful and creative teacher, a thoughtful and capable leader, and a valued colleague and friend.

His primary academic specialties were the works of Shakespeare, textual criticism, and English Renaissance literature. He was an early advocate and adopter of a wide range of instructional techniques.  He was a thoughtful film scholar and critic whose work on George Roy Hill appeared in an encyclopedia of great filmmakers. He co-authored a chapter on animal communication.  Bill was twice Chair of the Department of English, Linguistics, and Speech. His other leadership roles included Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree program and Assistant Dean for Projects and Programs. He was literary advisor for many Shakespeare productions at Mary Washington.

Primarily, Bill was a teacher who enjoyed each opportunity to bring the literature he loved to life for each new group of students. Always looking for ways to foster the love of language and the life of the mind, Bill began a weekly departmental tradition called “Thursday Poems,” in which colleagues and students would read their favorite poems for half an hour at the end of the workday. In 2000, he received the Grellet C. Simpson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, UMW’s most prestigious faculty award. An annual symposium showcasing critical, creative, and original works by students in the Department of English, Linguistics, and Communication is named in his honor.

Survivors include his sister, Judy Lauren Holley of Baton Rouge, LA; sister-in-law Linda Scheffel of Jackson, MS; and six nieces and nephews.  He was predeceased by his parents and his beloved wife, Mary Ivy Kemp.

Bill Kemp was a wonderful colleague, a devoted husband, and a faithful friend.  He will be missed by all those who conversed with, worked with, and learned from him.  

A private Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. 

Expressions in his memory may be made by donations to the Mary Ivy Kemp Scholarship Fund at Millsaps College, 1701 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39210. 


Celebration of Life at a later date

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