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Who Was Robert Kardashian Sr.? Everything the Kardashians Have Said About Their Late Father

From his rise to fame as O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney to the emotional tributes his daughters have shared about his life, here’s everything to know about the late Kardashian family patriarch

Kim Kardashian/Instagram
Kim Kardashian/Instagram

Family means everything to the Kardashians — a core value that was passed down to them by their late father, Robert Kardashian Sr.

A businessman and attorney, Robert skyrocketed to national attention when he acted as an attorney to close friend O.J. Simpson during his infamous 1994 murder trial. He was later diagnosed with esophageal cancer in July 2003, and died less than two months later on Sept. 30, 2003. He was 59.

Robert was married to Kris Jenner from 1978 to 1991. They welcomed four children together: daughters Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé Kardashian, plus son Robert Kardashian Jr.

His famous daughters have frequently shared emotional tributes to him on social media and on their reality shows, honoring his life and reminiscing about the lessons he taught them that they hope to pass on to their own children.

“The one thing I would take from how my dad was with us is unconditional love," Khloé previously wrote on her website and app. "It's the entire point of family.”

From his entrepreneurial spirit to the ways his daughters strive to keep his memory alive, here’s everything to know about “the best dad in the whole wide world,” Robert Kardashian Sr.

He grew up in Los Angeles

<p>Kourtney Kardashian Instagram</p> Robert Kardashian Sr.

Kourtney Kardashian Instagram

Robert Kardashian Sr.

Robert was born to Armenian-American parents Helen and Arthur Kardashian on February 22, 1994, in Los Angeles, California.

As a teenager, he stayed close to home for his studies, going on to get a degree in business at the University of Southern California, before later studying law at the University of San Diego School of Law — a passion that his daughter Kim has since picked up in his honor.

He launched several businesses throughout his career

<p>Kris Jenner Instagram</p> Kris Jenner and Robert Kardashian Sr. with their kids, Robert, Kourtney, Khloe, and Kim

Kris Jenner Instagram

Kris Jenner and Robert Kardashian Sr. with their kids, Robert, Kourtney, Khloe, and Kim

Before rising to fame as a defense attorney, Robert founded several businesses in the music industry, according to his son, Rob Kardashian Jr. “He also was a crazy entrepreneur and had crazy businesses. In a positive way, I had 15 years with him, and it was the best learning experience,” Rob told the Wall Street Journal in a September 2013 interview.

He co-founded a popular trade publication called Radio & Records Newspaper, known as R&R,  in the 1970s with Bob Wilson. Rob referred to the business as “equivalent to Billboard” in the interview.

“Then he started this company called Movie Tunes, where, before there were advertisements, before the movie started, he put music throughout every movie theater,” Rob explained, noting that it was a “big business.”

He rose to fame as O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney

<p>Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty</p> Alvin Michelson, Robert Kardashian, and O.J. Simpson during the O.J. Simpson murder case

Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty

Alvin Michelson, Robert Kardashian, and O.J. Simpson during the O.J. Simpson murder case

Robert rose to national attention when he helped defend friend O.J. Simpson during his 1994 murder trial for the violent death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

“What I do respect is no matter what my dad knew or didn’t know [about the case], my dad never, ever would betray his friend [O.J. Simpson]’s trust and he never spoke about it,” Khloé reflected in an episode of Kocktails with Khloé in 2016.

Kim noted that the family doesn’t often talk about her father’s involvement in the case during an appearance on close friend Jonathan Cheban’s podcast, FoodGod: OMFG.

“Yeah, we never really talk about it,” she said. “I never really talk about it.”

He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2003

<p>Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty </p> Robert Kardashian Sr.

Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty

Robert Kardashian Sr.

In July 2003, Robert was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He died less than eight weeks later, on Sept. 30, 2003. He was 59.

His children have all opened up about the heartbreaking impact of their father’s death, candidly revealing how it shaped them.

"18 years ago was the worst day of my life. 💔 But I know u see and guide,” Kim wrote on her Instagram Story on the anniversary of his death in 2021. “Love never dies," she added. "Love u daddy."

Previously, during a family therapy session that aired on a 2012 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she stated that she felt she “handled [his death] really well,” revealing that she had spent time with him while working at his office in the months leading up to his death and that she “spoke at his funeral,” according to Buzzfeed. She added, “I think when someone’s sick, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do and take care of them.”

Khloé opened up about the loss in her 2015 memoir, Strong Looks Better Naked, revealing she “completely fell apart” at her father’s funeral.

"I don't remember the details, but apparently I was an emotional wreck, and I'm told that I was so distraught I actually passed out,” she wrote of the traumatic experience. “At one point I fell to the floor kicking and screaming, and I had to be sedated. It was really intense. I refused to believe my father was gone. I just wanted to believe it was all just a bad dream.”

The Kardashians honored him with patient-focused healthcare center at UCLA

<p>Stefanie Keenan/Getty</p> Melina Esrailian, Dr. Eric Esrailian, Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West, Kendall Jenner, Sheila Kolker, Joyce Kraines and Randy Kolker attend UCLA Robert G. Kardashian Center For Esophageal Health Dedication Event

Stefanie Keenan/Getty

Melina Esrailian, Dr. Eric Esrailian, Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West, Kendall Jenner, Sheila Kolker, Joyce Kraines and Randy Kolker attend UCLA Robert G. Kardashian Center For Esophageal Health Dedication Event

Almost 16 years after their father’s death, the Kardashian family honored his legacy by attending the opening of UCLA’s Robert G. Kardashian Center for Esophageal Health in Los Angeles in 2019.

Kim and Khloé attended, alongside their mom Kris and half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, as did other members of their late father's family.

“So proud to announce the Robert G Kardashian center for esophageal health being launched at UCLA,” Kim wrote on Twitter at the time. “My wish is that other families can have more information and we can also focus on health and prevention.”

The wing will “provide resources for groundbreaking research, patient care and education/training, in addition to support of efforts in esophageal health,” Khloé wrote on her Instagram Story.

Kim feels “so lucky” for the time they spent together

<p>Kim Kardashian Instagram</p> Kim Kardashian and her father, Robert Kardashian Sr.

Kim Kardashian Instagram

Kim Kardashian and her father, Robert Kardashian Sr.

The SKIMS mogul was 22 when her dad died, and she has often opened up about how fortunate she feels to have spent that time with him.

On what would have been his 79th birthday in 2023, Kim shared a sentimental series of throwback photos and videos of herself and her dad, writing, “It's almost getting to the point where I've had to remember you longer than I've known you. It's been 20 years since we've celebrated your birthday here on earth. But I will take it because I had the best dad in the whole wide world and am so lucky I had 22 years with you!"

She also opened up about wishing he could be here to meet his grandchildren — she shares daughters North and Chicago as well as sons Saint and Psalm with ex-husband Kanye West — writing, "There's so much I wanna tell you and show you and so many little humans I wish you knew because God you would love them so much!”

Despite the time that has passed since his death, Kim also noted that she can still channel sentimental details about him in her mind, which brings her peace. “I can close my eyes and hear your voice and remember the funniest little things about you that make me so happy. I'll never ever let that go," she wrote.

Khloé strives to pass down the “unconditional love” her father showed her to her own kids

<p>Kris Jenner Instagram</p> Robert Kardashian Sr. with Khloe, Kourtney, and Kim

Kris Jenner Instagram

Robert Kardashian Sr. with Khloe, Kourtney, and Kim

The Good American co-founder is mom to daughter True and son Tatum, whom she shares with ex Tristan Thompson. As a mother, she hopes to instill the same core values of prioritizing family time with her career that she learned from her dad, she explained during an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2021.

"We were all so close to my dad. My dad definitely worked all the time, but looking back at it, I never noticed that," she said. "He was with us all the time, and I think just had a really good way of balancing work and taking care of his kids and being there. He was there for all of our sporting events, any plays, any of that kind of stuff."

She previously opened up about their close relationship on her website, writing, “The one thing I would take from how my dad was with us is unconditional love. It's the entire point of family."

Studying law has helped Kim to feel closer to her dad

Kim Kardashian/Instagram
Kim Kardashian/Instagram

Kim grew up helping out at her dad’s law office and eventually found herself drawn to follow in his footsteps. After several years of studying, she passed the baby bar exam in 2021, and has since advocated for criminal justice reform over the years.

In her 2020 Oxygen documentary, Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project, Kim discussed how her legal work has helped her feel connected to her late father.

"There are times when I could be frustrated and studying really late and have to get up and wonder how he did it, having four kids and must've been going through some of the same things that I have gone through," she said. "So it would have been exciting to talk to him about that, and I know that he would be so, so proud."

After passing the baby bar exam, Kim wrote on Twitter that in addition to being proud of her, he would have likely poked fun at her for the number of times it took her to pass the test. "I know my dad would be so proud and he would actually be so shocked to know that this is my path now but he would have been my best study partner."

"I am told he was notorious for making fun of people who didn't pass on their first attempt like he did, but he would have been my biggest cheerleader!" she added.

Rob wishes he could “learn more” from his father now

<p>Kim Kardashian Instagram </p> Kim Kardashian, Rob Kardashian Jr. and Robert Kardashian Sr.

Kim Kardashian Instagram

Kim Kardashian, Rob Kardashian Jr. and Robert Kardashian Sr.

After launching his own business venture in 2013 — an upscale line of patterned socks called Arthur George — Rob spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the business acumen he’d learned from his dad, who taught him the power of saving money and investing at a young age.

“He just taught me so much. I wish, obviously, that I still had him to this day, to say see, look what’s going on,” Rob told the outlet.

“I know he’s up there, but just to get his real advice and help,” he added, going on to praise his father as “such a powerful man and a great entrepreneur.”

Reflecting on the 15 years they spent together, Rob said he considers himself “so fortunate” to have shared that time with his dad, and only wishes he’d had more of it. “I wish I could learn more at this age and this time of my life from him,” he said.

Kim sees her dad in son Psalm West

<p>Kim Kardashian Instagram</p> Kim Kardashian and Psalm West

Kim Kardashian Instagram

Kim Kardashian and Psalm West

Ahead of son Psalm’s birth in May 2019, Kim was told by a blind medium in Bali that she would welcome another son “and that it was going to be my father reincarnated,” she told E! News.

Kim explained that the medium “had no idea” that she was expecting via surrogate at the time, as she hadn’t revealed the information outside of her inner circle. “No one on my crew knew that I had a surrogate that was pregnant with a boy.”

She added that another experience shortly after Psalm’s birth further underscored the medium’s prediction, explaining that when Psalm was at a baby shower with his nurse, she was approached by a woman who told her to “please tell [his] mom this is a family member of hers reincarnated.”

"So my whole family, all the time, thinks it's my dad and is just so emotional and close to him," she told the outlet, revealing that he’s left-handed, which Robert Sr. also was. "So, all these things happen. I don't even know if I believe in reincarnation, but I do now. I want to believe it!"

Khloé prays to him with daughter True

<p>Khloe Kardashian Instagram</p> Khloe Kardashian and True Thompson

Khloe Kardashian Instagram

Khloe Kardashian and True Thompson

In a 2019 episode of Revenge Body, host Khloé spoke with twins whose dad had also died from esophageal cancer, opening up about the impact it has had on their health through the years.

“My dad had that when I was 19. It’s a rare cancer and it’s a very fast cancer,” Khloé explained. She added that she still communicates with him, and helps daughter True connect with him through prayer. “I still talk to my dad all the time, every night,” she said in the episode. “Me and my daughter, we pray to him, we talk to him, so I’m a big believer of that.”

She added that she tries to stay positive even while mourning, seeking a silver lining whenever she can. “I try, with every negative experience, to find what did I learn from that? What did that teach me?” Khloé advised the twins. “You know, at least I had 19 amazing years with my dad, and I have the best memories.”

She added, “You’re allowed to be sad and you should mourn, but the more we live in our past, it just hinders from any personal growth.”

Kourtney stills feels protected by him

<p>Kourtney Kardashian Instagram</p> Kourtney Kardashian and Robert Kardahsian Sr. in 1993

Kourtney Kardashian Instagram

Kourtney Kardashian and Robert Kardahsian Sr. in 1993

To honor his birthday in 2019, the Poosh founder shared a sweet throwback photo of her and Robert Sr. posing in front of balloons together at a 1993 father-daughter dance.

“Happy Birthday to the best daddy I could have ever imagined,” she wrote. “Your love shines through all of us and we feel your protection.”

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