R. Crosby Kemper, Jr. was born February 22, 1927 into an influential banking and railroading family in Kansas City, Missouri. Both his father and grandfather were very successful in their professional endeavors. Mr. Kemper was born in Kansas City and lived there until about the age of sixteen. He attended Southwest High School in Kansas City until he transferred to Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. Professors and classmates were enthralled with his charisma and ability to communicate with people. He won the school’s coveted Carr Award for excellence in public speaking.
After graduating from prep school he served his country in the US Navy for two years at the conclusion of World War II. He was first stationed in St. Louis before being sent over to the Finger Lakes in Japan. After returning home, Mr. Kemper enrolled in the University of Missouri-Columbia following in his father's footsteps, R. Crosby Kemper Sr., who played football at M.U. He was married while in college to Cynthia Warrick-Kemper, the daughter of a lawyer. In 1950, he went to work for the United Missouri Bank, which is now UMB Bank of Kansas City. He was hired by his father at the young age of 22. He began his career in banking as a night transit where he met trains and sorted checks. After six months he move to assistant cashier yet quickly advanced to assistant vice president and made executive vice president in 1955. By 1956 he was elected into the bank’s board of directors. At that time he was the only board member under 50 years of age. He later became president in 1959.
In 1962 he ran for the U.S. Senate on the Republican card, this however was unusual due to his strong Democratic family. He put up a better fight than most thought he would, he was ultimately defeated by Edward Long. Kemper’s loss of votes were mainly in St. Louis were there were allegations of Democratic voter fraud. Teamsters gave millions of dollars to Ed Long’s 1962 Senate race against Kemper and since then Long was discredited for using his office to shield Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa.
In the same year chaired the Kansas City Industrial Committee. He is still very active in the running of The Kemper Art Museum, which was named in his honor. Although he never obtained a degree from MU, he received an honorary degree from William Jewel College. Some of his other community involvements consist of charitable donations to the building of the American Royal in 1972; the arena next to the American Royal in 1974 which is named R. Crosby Kemper Memorial Arena; and in 1974 gave $5 millions to the performing arts center on the campus on University of Missouri – Kansas City, this gift was the largest single private donation in the history of the university system – UMKC called the facility the Enid Jackson Kemper Center for the Performing Arts in honor of Kemper’s mother. In 1981 he pressured area corporations and banks for $33 million in loan commitments to finance the Vista International Hotel future site at 12th and Wyandotte. Months later, Kemper stepped in to bail out the Kansas City Philharmonic from closure due to their underwritten debt through support of UMB, family charity, and his own personal resources.
Brother in KAI and another Zeta Phi Wall of Fame member, Samuel M. Walton, often referred to Mr. Kemper as his "personal banker."
Mr. R. Crosby Kemper III, the son of the great Zeta Phi, is now currently the president of UMB Banks of St. Louis. His father will turn seventy two at the end of February and is still at the office bright and early every morning with no thoughts of retiring any time soon. He remarried some years ago to Mrs. Bebe Stripp-Kemper. He has seven children between his two marriages. His son added that being named 'Mr. Kansas City' by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce was his father's finest accomplishment.