Joseph Patrick Kennedy
b.6 Sep 1888 Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
d.18 Nov 1969 Hyannis Port, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States
m. 7 Oct 1914
Facts and Events
Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) was an American businessman, investor, and government official. Kennedy was the husband of Rose Kennedy. Their children included President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968), and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy (1932–2009). He was a leading member of the Democratic Party and of the Irish Catholic community. He was the inaugural Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), and later directed the Maritime Commission. Kennedy served as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 until late 1940, including the early part of World War II.
Born to a political family in East Boston, Massachusetts, Kennedy embarked on a career in finance, making a large fortune as a stock market and commodity investor and by investing in real estate and a wide range of industries. During World War I, he was an assistant general manager of a Boston area Bethlehem Steel shipyard, through which he developed a friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In the 1920s Kennedy made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios, ultimately merging several acquisitions into Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) studios.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, Kennedy consolidated an even larger fortune when he traveled to Scotland with FDR's son, James Roosevelt, to buy distribution rights for Scotch whisky. His company, Somerset Importers, became the exclusive American agent for Gordon's Gin and Dewar's Scotch. In addition, Kennedy purchased spirits-importation rights from Schenley Industries, a firm in Canada. He owned the largest office building in the country, Chicago's Merchandise Mart, giving his family an important base in that city and an alliance with the Irish-American political leadership there.
His term as ambassador and his political ambitions ended abruptly during the Battle of Britain in November 1940, with the publishing of his controversial remarks suggesting that "Democracy is finished in England. It may be here, [in the US]." Kennedy resigned under pressure shortly afterwards. In later years, Kennedy worked behind the scenes to continue building the financial and political fortunes of the Kennedy family. After a disabling stroke on December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, Kennedy acquired aphasia and lost all power of speech, but remained mentally intact. He used a wheelchair after the stroke. He died on November 18, 1969, two months after his 81st birthday. Joe Kennedy outlived three of his four sons; Ted would die nearly forty years later.