Fifty-seven years ago, a family began all because two people fell in love at UMHB. Some may call it a tradition, but to the Kemp family it was a coincidence that three, sons followed in their parents’ footsteps and met and married women from the university.
The year was 1954. Leroy Kemp was tall and had dark brown hair, and she was charming and beautiful. He had noticed her while attending First Baptist Church in Belton and realized he wanted to take her out on a date.
“Gee, I kind of liked her looks and was kind of attracted to her,” Professor of Christian studies Leroy Kemp said.
He decided to write Professor of education Dr. Jean Kemp, asking her to accompany him to the 4th of July Belton rodeo that summer. She was a student at the all-female school, Mary Hardin-Baylor College, and he was attending Baylor University.
He pulled up in front of Stribling Hall in his 1952 black Ford sedan and waited for his date to be called down.
“Back then you had to have a formal letter from your parents saying you had permission to date a certain young man,” Jean said. “That night I was brought down by the dorm mother for my date.”
The rules were a little different in 1954 from what they are now at UMHB. The freshmen women had one weekend night and one weekday night per month that they could go out. They had to be back by 8:30 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekends, and there was no exception for the Kemps’ first date.
“It got closer to 11 p.m. that night, so I called the dorm mother to ask permission if we could stay out a little later,” Leroy said. “She said no. Bring her in.”
Jean remembers being embarrassed that night and thought he would never ask her out again. Little did she know, Leroy was smitten.
Due to the strict rules and the distance, they wrote many letters. However, there was an exception to the curfew. If the women were attending a church service, they were allowed to be back in the dorm 15 minutes after the service ended.
“So that summer we went to a lot of revivals and church services because we weren’t allowed to see each other besides that,” Jean said.
By fall they were in love, and Leroy proposed to Jean in the car after a date in front of Stribling Hall. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving that he put a ring on her finger.
Their love story involvingUMHB was just the first in the history of the Kemp family.
The couple married 11 months after their first date on June 3, 1955, in the mission church of FBC Belton where Leroy was pastoring. He led that church for six years and would later pastor First Baptist Church Belton.
Jean said, “Our reception was in, at that time, Hardy parlor. It was a beautiful Victorian parlor with beautiful furniture from wall to wall, and they had a bridal room for the girls to get ready in.”
Little did they know that later all three of their sons would follow in their parents’ footsteps and find their own true loves at UMHB.
Their oldest son Paul attended Baylor University. However, one weekend while he was home visiting, Leroy introduced him to Cindie, a UMHB student who would later become his wife. Their youngest son Mark met his wife, Annette, while they were both students at UMHB.
Resident Director of Huckins Tim Kemp is their middle son and shares a similar love story as that of his brothers and parents.
Tim met his wife Donna in 1983 while singing in the New Edition choir, now called One Voice.
“I came to Belton to visit a friend. I was walking up to Burt, and a beautiful girl walked by. I told myself, ‘I am going to marry that girl one day,’” Tim said. “My second semester at UMHB, she showed up to New Edition.”
They got to know each other over the year while touring and singing but were not allowed to have a relationship because of club rules.
“We wanted to date each other, but couldn’t. That next semester she stopped being a part of New Edition, and we started dating,” he said.
Thirty-one years later, in 1985, another Kemp family first date began at Stribling Hall.
“The first time I asked her out was to an event on campus, but she turned me down because she already had a date,” Tim said. “Not too long after that she came to me and asked me to come over to Strib. Our first real date was watching The Wizard of Oz on the couch in Stribling.”
The Kemps didn’t plan on having UMHB so connected to their family’s existence. It simply happened.
“It’s just one of those things. Our lives have been tied to Mary Hardin-Baylor for a long time…. Mom has worked here. Dad has been on the Board of Trustees as a chairman,” Tim said. “Our lives have grown up on this campus, and it just seems kind of fitting that we would find people here to marry.”