Colonel James P. Kelly

Colonel James P Kelly was born and raised in Illinois. At an early age he attended a reunion of Civil War veterans with an aging uncle. It was on this trip, while aboard a packet boat trip down the Mississippi River, that he learned of the traditions and heritage of Kemper Military School. He was profoundly influenced by the stories of Confederate veterans and resolved to someday attend Kemper. Colonel Kelly did attend Kemper, graduating in 1931 after being the Corps Commander for two years. He went on to earn multiple degrees from the University of Missouri, serve his country during WWII, and also serve in the Missouri Senate.

During WWII he piloted bombers in raids over Germany. His aircraft was severely damaged on several occasions and in one instance he recalled having a German fighter "follow me firing hot lines of tracers starting above St Lo, France and ending over the English Channel". Kelly’s sense of humor added to his stories and he recalled that it was during this raid that he reached for his thermos just as the Plexiglas exploded from a bullet which narrowly missed his head. "That cup of coffee saved my life" was how he described the event.

Kelly became Kemper’s eighth President in 1964 after a lifetime of public service. He was admired and respected by the Kemper Corps of Cadets and used the same dogged determination which was his hallmark to try to correct Kemper’s bleak financial situation. Due to failing health he resigned in 1971 and passed away in 1973. Cadets of Kemper provided him full honors in a final tribute.

"Sadly missed by friends, family and Old Boys of Kemper Military School"