Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr: Wikis

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Joseph P. Kennedy

In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Robert Worth Bingham
Succeeded by John Gilbert Winant

In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Emory S. Land

In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by James M. Landis

Born September 6, 1888(1888-09-06)
Boston, Massachusetts,
United States
Died November 18, 1969 (aged 81)
Hyannis Port, Massachusetts,
United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
Children Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
Jul 25, 1915 – Aug 12, 1944
John F. Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – Nov 22, 1963
Rosemary Kennedy
Sep 13, 1918 – Jan 7, 2005
Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish
Feb 20, 1920 – May 13, 1948
Eunice Kennedy Shriver
Jul 10, 1921 – Aug 11, 2009
Patricia Kennedy Lawford
May 6, 1924 – Sep 17, 2006
Robert F. Kennedy
Nov 20, 1925 – Jun 6, 1968
Jean Kennedy Smith
born Feb 20, 1928
Edward Kennedy
Feb 22, 1932 - Aug 25, 2009
Alma mater Harvard College
Profession Businessman, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic
Cause of death Complications from a stroke

Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) was a prominent American businessman and political figure, and the father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, United States Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, United States Senator Edward Kennedy, naval officer Joseph P. Kennedy Jr, Special Olympics co-founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, and grandfather of U.S. Representatives Joseph P. Kennedy II & Patrick Kennedy. 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, and later directed the Maritime Commission. Kennedy served as the United States Ambassador to Great Britain from 1938 until late 1940, including the early part of World War II.

Born to a political family in Boston, Massachusetts, Joseph Kennedy was educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard University, and 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.[1] At the end of Prohibition, Kennedy and James Roosevelt traveled to Scotland to buy distribution rights for Scotch whisky. In addition, Kennedy had purchased spirits-importation rights from Schenley, a firm in Canada.[2]

During World War I, he was an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel and developed a friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. 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 his company, Somerset Importers, became the exclusive American agent for Gordon's Gin and Dewar's Scotch. 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]."[3] 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 lost all power of speech, but remained mentally intact. He used a wheelchair after the stroke.

Kennedy was one of three fathers (the other two being Dr. George Tryon Harding, Sr. and George H. W. Bush) to live through the entire presidency of a son. He died on November 18, 1969, two months after his eighty-first birthday.


Background, education, and family

Kennedy yearbook photo from Boston Latin School.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a son of P. J. Kennedy, a successful businessman, ward boss, and Irish American community leader, and his wife Mary Augusta Hickey. All of Kennedy's grandparents emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1840s to escape the Irish famine. Kennedy was born into a highly sectarian society, where Irish Catholics felt themselves excluded by upper-class Boston Brahmins. Boston Irish became thus active in the Democratic Party, including P.J. and numerous relatives.

P.J. Kennedy's home was comfortable, thanks to his successful saloon business, investments, and an influential role in local politics. His mother encouraged Joseph to attend the Boston Latin School, where Joe was a below average scholar but was popular among his classmates, winning election as class president and playing on the school baseball team.

Kennedy followed in the footsteps of older cousins by attending Harvard College. He focused on becoming a social leader, working energetically to gain admittance to the prestigious Hasty Pudding Club. While at Harvard he joined the Delta Upsilon International fraternity and played on the baseball team, but was blackballed from the Porcellian Club.

Marriage and family

In 1914, Kennedy married Rose Fitzgerald, the eldest daughter of John F. Fitzgerald, a Democratic mayor of Boston and probably the most recognized politician in the city. They had nine children.

Name Birth Death Age Notes / Cause of Death (where applicable)
Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr. July 25, 1915 August 12, 1944 29 Killed in England while serving in Operation Aphrodite during World War II.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy May 29, 1917 November 22, 1963 46 Married 1953 to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. Became 35th President. Assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
Rosemary Kennedy September 13, 1918 January 7, 2005 86 Lobotomized in 1941, then institutionalized from 1949 until her death.
Kathleen Agnes Kennedy February 20, 1920 May 13, 1948 28 Married 1944 to William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington; died in plane crash in France.
Eunice Mary Kennedy July 10, 1921 August 11, 2009 88 Married 1953 to Sargent Shriver; Died at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
Patricia Helen Kennedy May 6, 1924 September 17, 2006 82 Married 1954 to Peter Lawford; divorced 1966. Died in 2006
Robert Francis Kennedy November 20, 1925 June 6, 1968 42 Married 1950 to Ethel Skakel. Served as the U.S. Attorney General - 1961–1964 and a U.S. Senator from New York - 1965–1968. Assassinated in Los Angeles, California.
Jean Ann Kennedy February 20, 1928 Married 1956 to Stephen Edward Smith; 1993-1998 U.S. Ambassador to Ireland.
Edward Moore Kennedy February 22, 1932 August 25, 2009 77 Married 1958 to Joan Bennett, divorced in 1982; remarried in 1992 to Victoria Reggie. Served as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1962 to his death in 2009.

Business career

Kennedy made a large fortune as a stock market and commodity investor and by investing in real estate and a wide range of industries. He never built a significant business from scratch, but his timing as both buyer and seller was usually excellent. Sometimes he made use of inside information in ways which would later be made illegal, but regulations were lighter in his era. He later became the first chairman of the SEC. Kennedy was associated with various mobsters by their own account, including Sam Giancana and Frank Costello. According to some accounts, Kennedy was associated in the "Bear Raid" that precipitated the 1929 stock crash, as well as much of the bootlegging activity that was current at the time. When Fortune magazine published its first list of the richest people in the United States in 1957 it placed him in the $200–400 million band ($1.55-3.09 billion today[4]), meaning that it estimated him to be between the ninth and sixteenth richest person in the United States at that time.

Early ventures

After graduating from Harvard in 1912, he took his first job as a state-employed bank examiner. This allowed him to learn a great deal about the banking industry. In 1913, the Columbia Trust Bank, in which his father held a significant share, was under threat of takeover. Kennedy, borrowing $45,000 ($987,273 today[4]) from family and friends, bought back control and at age 25 was rewarded by being elected the bank's president, "the youngest in America."

Kennedy emerged as a highly successful entrepreneur with an eye for value. For example he turned a handsome profit from ownership of Old Colony Realty Associates, Inc., which bought distressed real estate.

Although skeptical of American involvement in World War I, he sought to participate in war-time production as an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel, at a major shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. There he oversaw the production of transports and warships critical to the war. This job brought him into contact with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Wall Street

In 1919, he joined the prominent stock brokerage firm of Hayden, Stone & Co. where he became an expert in dealing in the unregulated stock market of the day, engaging in tactics that would later be labeled insider trading and market manipulation. In 1923, he left, and set up his own investment company, becoming a multi-millionaire during the bull market of the 1920s and even more wealthy as a result of taking "short" positions in 1929.

David Kennedy, author of Freedom From Fear, describes the Wall Street of the Kennedy era:

(It) was a strikingly information-starved environment. Many firms whose securities were publicly traded published no regular reports or issued reports whose data were so arbitrarily selected and capriciously audited as to be worse than useless. It was this circumstance that had conferred such awesome power on a handful of investment bankers like J.P. Morgan, because they commanded a virtual monopoly of the information necessary for making sound financial decisions. Especially in the secondary markets, where reliable information was all but impossible for the average investor to come by, opportunities abounded for insider manipulation and wildcat speculation.

The Crash

Kennedy formed alliances with several other Irish-Catholic money men, including Charles E. Mitchell, Michael J. Meehan and Bernard Smith. He helped establish the Libby-Owens-Ford stock pool, an arrangement in which Kennedy and colleagues created a scarcity of Libby-Owens-Ford stock to drive up the value of their own holdings in the stock, using inside information and the public's lack of knowledge. Pool operators would bribe journalists to present information in the most advantageous manner. Attempts to corner stocks were made that would cause the price to go up, and bear raids could cause the price to collapse downward. Kennedy got into a bidding war seeking control of founder John Hertz's company Yellow Cab.[5]

Kennedy later claimed he knew the rampant stock speculation of the late 1920s would lead to a crash. It is said that he knew it was time to get out of the market when he received stock tips from a shoe-shine boy.[6]

It has been noted that during the Depression Kennedy vastly increased his financial fortune by investing most of it in real estate. In 1929, Kennedy's fortune was estimated to be $4 million (equivalent to $50.8 million today[4]). By 1935, his wealth had increased to $180 million (equivalent to $2.85 billion today[4]). According to a 1967 articles in Time Magazine, Kennedy survived the crash "because he possessed a passion for facts, a complete lack of sentiment and a marvelous sense of timing."[7]

Investments in movie production, liquor importing, real estate

Kennedy made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios. Film production in the US was much more decentralized than it is today, with many different movie studios producing film product. One small studio was FBO, Film Booking Offices of America, which specialized in Westerns produced cheaply. Its owner was in financial trouble and asked Kennedy to help find a new owner. Kennedy formed his own group of investors and bought it for $1.5 million ($18.6 million today[4]).

Kennedy moved to Hollywood in March 1926 to focus on running the studio. Movie studios were then permitted to own exhibition companies which were necessary to get their films on local screens. With that in mind, in a hostile buyout, he acquired the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Theaters Corporation (KAO) which had more than 700 vaudeville movie theaters across the United States. He later purchased another production studio called Pathe Exchange.

In October 1928, he formally merged his film companies FBO and KAO to form Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) and made a large amount of money in the process. Then, keen to buy the Pantages Theatre chain, which had 63 profitable theaters, Kennedy made an offer of $8 million ($102 million today). It was declined. He then stopped distributing his movies to Pantages. Still, Alexander Pantages declined to sell. However, when Pantages was later charged and tried for rape, his reputation took a battering and he accepted Kennedy's revised offer of $3.5 million ($44.5 million today[4]). Pantages himself claimed that Kennedy had "set him up", an allegation substantiated by his later vindication at a second trial.

It is estimated that Kennedy made over $5 million ($63.5 million today[4]) from his investments in Hollywood. During his affair with film star Gloria Swanson, he arranged the financing for her films The Love of Sunya (1927) and the ill-fated Queen Kelly (1928).

A recurrent rumor about Kennedy is that he made money in "bootlegging," the illegal importation and distribution of alcohol during Prohibition. Although there is no evidence of this, Kennedy did have extensive investments in the legal importation of spirits. The "bootlegging" rumor itself may be traceable to Samuel Bronfman and his crime syndicate, which did in fact smuggle spirits across the Canadian-American border. Post-Prohibition, Bronfman had a bitter rivalry with Kennedy in acquiring North American liquor distribution rights.[8] At the start of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, Kennedy and James Roosevelt founded Somerset Importers, an entity that acted as the exclusive American agent for Gordon's Dry Gin and Dewar's Scotch. They assembled a large inventory of stock, which they allegedly sold for a profit of millions of dollars when Prohibition was repealed. Kennedy invested this money in residential and commercial real estate in New York, Le Pavillon restaurant, and Hialeah Race Track in Hialeah, Florida. His most important purchase was the largest office building in the country, Chicago's Merchandise Mart, which gave his family an important base in that city and an alliance with the Irish-American political leadership there.

New Dealer

Kennedy's first major involvement in a national political campaign was his support in 1932 for Franklin D. Roosevelt's bid for the Presidency. He donated, loaned, and raised a substantial amount of money for the campaign. Roosevelt rewarded him with an appointment as the inaugural Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Kennedy had hoped for a Cabinet post, such as Treasury. After Franklin Roosevelt called Joe to Washington to clean up the securities industry, somebody asked FDR why he had tapped such a crook. "Takes one to catch one," replied Roosevelt.[9]

Kennedy's reforming work as SEC Chairman was widely praised on all sides, as investors realized the SEC was protecting their interests. His knowledge of the financial markets equipped him to identify areas requiring the attention of regulators. One of the crucial reforms was the requirement for companies to regularly file financial statements with the SEC, which broke what some saw as an information monopoly maintained by the Morgan banking family. He left the SEC in 1935 to take over the Maritime Commission, which built on his wartime experience in running a major shipyard.

Disputes with Father Charles Coughlin

Father Charles Coughlin was an Irish-Canadian priest in Detroit, who became perhaps the most prominent Roman Catholic spokesman on political and financial issues in the 1930s, with a radio audience that reached millions every week. A strong supporter of Roosevelt in 1932, Coughlin broke with the president in 1934 and became a bitter opponent in his weekly, anti-communist, anti-Semitic, anti-Federal Reserve and isolationist radio talks. Roosevelt sent Kennedy and other prominent Irish Catholics to try to tone down Coughlin.[10] Coughlin swung his support to Huey Long in 1935 and then to William Lemke's Union Party in 1936. Kennedy strongly supported the New Deal and believed as early as 1933 that Coughlin was "becoming a very dangerous proposition" as an opponent of Roosevelt and "an out and out demagogue." In 1936, Kennedy worked with Roosevelt, Bishop Francis Spellman and Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) to shut Coughlin down.[11] When Coughlin returned to the air in 1940, Kennedy continued to battle against his influence among Irish Americans.[12]

Ambassador to Britain

In 1938, Roosevelt appointed Kennedy as the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James (the United Kingdom) in London, England. Kennedy hugely enjoyed his leadership position in London high society, which stood in stark contrast to his relative outsider status in Boston. His daughter Kathleen married the heir to the Duke of Devonshire, the head of one of England's grandest aristocratic families. Kennedy rejected the warnings of the Member of Parliament Winston Churchill that any compromise with Nazi Germany was impossible. Instead, Kennedy supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's apparent policy of appeasement in order to stave off a second World War that would be a more horrible "armageddon" than the first. Throughout 1938, while the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany and Austria intensified, Kennedy attempted to arrange a meeting with Adolf Hitler.[13] Shortly before the Nazi aerial bombing of British cities began in September 1940, Kennedy once again sought a personal meeting with Hitler, again without the approval of the Department of State, "to bring about a better understanding between the United States and Germany."[14]

Kennedy also argued strongly against giving military and economic aid to the United Kingdom.

"Democracy is finished in England. It may be here," stated Ambassador Kennedy in the Boston Sunday Globe of November 10, 1940. In that one simple statement, Joseph P. Kennedy ruined any future chance he had of becoming the U.S. president, effectively committing political suicide. While bombs fell daily on Great Britain, Nazi German troops overran Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France, Ambassador Kennedy unambiguously and repeatedly stated his belief that this War was not about saving democracy from National Socialism (Nazism) or from Fascism. In the now-notorious, long, rambling interview with two newspaper journalists, Louis M. Lyons, of the Boston Globe, and Ralph Coghlan, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kennedy opined:

"It's all a question of what we do with the next six months. The whole reason for aiding England is to give us time." ... "As long as she is in there, we have time to prepare. It isn't that [Britain is] fighting for democracy. That's the bunk. She's fighting for self-preservation, just as we will if it comes to us... I know more about the European situation than anybody else, and it's up to me to see that the country gets it,"[15]

In British government circles during the Blitz, Ambassador Kennedy was widely disparaged as a defeatist. He fled to the countryside during the bombings of London by German aircraft.

When the American public and Roosevelt Administration officials read his quotes on democracy being "finished", and his belief that the Battle of Britain wasn't about "fighting for democracy," all of it being just "bunk", they realized that Ambassador Kennedy could not be trusted to represent the United States. In the face of national public outcry, and pressure from the Roosevelt Department of State, which no longer wanted him, Kennedy submitted his resignation later on in November 1940.

Throughout the rest of the war, relations between Kennedy and the Roosevelt Administration remained tense (especially when Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., vocally opposed President Roosevelt's nomination for a third term, which began in 1941). Having effectively removed himself from the national stage, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., sat out World War II on the sidelines. Kennedy did however stay active in the smaller venues of rallying Irish-American and Roman Catholic Democrats to vote for Roosevelt's re-election for a fourth term in 1944. Former Ambassador Kennedy claimed to be eager to help the war effort, but as a result of his previous gaffes, he was neither trusted nor invited to do so.[16]

Due to his philanthropy and a close friendship with Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, during this time, Joseph Kennedy was invested as a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an honor which at that time he shared with just a few dozen Americans.

With his own ambitions to achieve the White House in self-inflicted destruction, Joseph Kennedy held out great hope for his eldest son, Joseph Kennedy, Jr., to seek the Presidency. However, Joseph Kennedy, Jr., who had become a U.S. Navy bomber pilot, was killed over the English Channel while undertaking Operation Aphrodite, a high-risk, new way to use heavy bombers to strike German missile sites in France, in 1944. His bomber accidentally detonated early, before Kennedy could bail out. After grieving over his dead son, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., then turned his attention to grooming his second son, John F. Kennedy, for a run for the Presidency. After serving as a member of the House of Representatives, and then a U.S. Senator, the younger Kennedy entered the Presidential election in 1960, and won it.


Joseph P. Kennedy was (for a while) a close friend with the leading Jewish lawyer, Felix Frankfurter, who became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in January 1939 and remained in this position until 1962. Frankfurter helped Kennedy get his sons admitted into the London School of Economics, where they studied under Harold Laski, a leading Jewish intellectual and a prominent socialist.[17] While holding positive attitudes towards individual Jews, Kennedy's views of the Jews as a people were, by his own admission, overwhelmingly negative.

According to Harvey Klemmer, who served as one of Kennedy's embassy aides, Kennedy habitually referred to Jews as "kikes or sheenies." Kennedy allegedly told Klemmer that "[some] individual Jews are all right, Harvey, but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch."[14] When Klemmer returned from a trip to Germany and reported the pattern of vandalism and assaults on Jews by Nazis, Kennedy responded, "Well, they brought it on themselves."[18]

On June 13, 1938, Kennedy met with Herbert von Dirksen, the German ambassador to the United Kingdom, in London, who claimed upon his return to Berlin that Kennedy had told him that "it was not so much the fact that we want to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to us, but rather the loud clamor with which we accompanied this purpose. [Kennedy] himself fully understood our Jewish policy."[19] Kennedy's main concern with such violent acts against German Jews as Kristallnacht was that they generated bad publicity in the West for the Nazi regime, a concern that he communicated in a letter to Charles Lindbergh.[20]

Kennedy had a close friendship with Nancy Astor. The correspondence between them is reportedly replete with anti-Semitic statements.[21] As Edward Renehan notes:

As fiercely anti-Communist as they were anti-Semitic, Kennedy and Astor looked upon Adolf Hitler as a welcome solution to both of these "world problems" (Nancy's phrase).... Kennedy replied that he expected the "Jew media" in the United States to become a problem, that "Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles" were already making noises contrived to "set a match to the fuse of the world."[22]

By August 1940, Kennedy worried that a third term as the President for Roosevelt would mean war. As Leamer reports, "Joe believed that Roosevelt, Churchill, the Jews, and their allies would manipulate America into approaching Armageddon."[23] Nevertheless, Kennedy supported Roosevelt's third term in return for Roosevelt's support of Joseph Kennedy, Jr., in the run for the Governor of Massachusetts in 1942.[24] However, even during the darkest months of World War II, Kennedy remained "more wary of" prominent American Jews, such as Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, than he was of Hitler.[25]

Kennedy told the reporter Joe Dinneen:

It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public office and in private life. That does not mean that I... believe they should be wiped off the face of the Earth... Jews who take an unfair advantage of the fact that theirs is a persecuted race do not help much... Publicizing unjust attacks upon the Jews may help to cure the injustice, but continually publicizing the whole problem only serves to keep it alive in the public mind.

Political alliances

Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. with his father-in-law John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and son John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy used his wealth and connections to build a national network of supporters that became the base for his sons' political careers. He especially concentrated on the Irish American community in large cities, particularly Boston, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and several New Jersey cities.[26]

Alliance with Senator McCarthy

Kennedy's close ties with Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy strengthened his family's position among Irish Catholics, but weakened it among liberals who strongly opposed McCarthy. Even before McCarthy became famous in 1950, Kennedy had forged close ties with the Republican Senator from Wisconsin. Kennedy often brought him to Hyannis Port as a weekend house guest in the late 1940s. McCarthy at one point dated Patricia Kennedy. When McCarthy became a dominant voice of anti-Communism starting in 1950, Kennedy contributed thousands of dollars to McCarthy, and became one of his major supporters. In the Senate race of 1952, Joseph apparently worked a deal so that McCarthy, a Republican, would not make campaign speeches for the GOP ticket in Massachusetts. In return, Congressman John F. Kennedy, running for the Senate seat, would not give any anti-McCarthy speeches that his liberal supporters wanted to hear. In 1953 at Kennedy's urging McCarthy hired Robert Kennedy (age 27) as a senior staff member of the Senate's investigations subcommittee, which McCarthy chaired. In 1954, when the Senate was threatening to condemn McCarthy, Senator John Kennedy faced a dilemma. "How could I demand that Joe McCarthy be censured for things he did when my own brother was on his staff?" asked JFK. By 1954, however, Robert Kennedy and McCarthy's chief aide, Roy Cohn, had had a falling out and Robert no longer worked for McCarthy. John Kennedy had a speech drafted calling for the censure of McCarthy but he never delivered it. When the Senate voted to censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954, Senator Kennedy was in the hospital and never indicated then or later how he would vote. Joe strongly supported McCarthy to the end.[27]

Presidential ambitions for family

Joe Kennedy was a fiercely ambitious individual who thrived off competition and winning. And, in his eyes, the ultimate prize was being president of the United States. Joe Kennedy wanted his first son, Joseph Kennedy Jr. to become president, but after his death in WWII, he became determined to make his eldest surviving son, John F. Kennedy, president.

Joe Kennedy was consigned to the political shadows after his remarks during WWII that "Democracy is finished...", and he remained an intensely controversial figure among U.S. citizens because of his suspect business credentials, his Roman Catholicism, his opposition to Roosevelt's foreign policy, and his support for Joseph McCarthy. As a result, his presence in John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign had to be downplayed. Having him in the spotlight would hurt John, making it look as if it were his father who was running for president.

However, Joe Kennedy still drove the campaign behind the scenes. He played a central role in planning strategy, fundraising, and building coalitions and alliances. Joe supervised the spending and to some degree the overall campaign strategy, helped select advertising agencies, and was endlessly on the phone with local and state party leaders, newsmen, and business leaders. He had met thousands of powerful people in his career, and often called in his chips to help his sons.

His father's connections and influence were turned directly into political capital for the senatorial and presidential campaigns of John, Robert and Ted. Historian Richard J. Whalen describes Joe's influence on John Kennedy's policy decisions in his biography of Joseph Kennedy. Joe was influential in creating the Kennedy Cabinet (Robert Kennedy as Attorney General for example). However, in 1961, Joe Kennedy suffered from a stroke that placed even more limitations on his influence in his sons' political careers. Joseph Kennedy expanded the Kennedy Compound, which continues as a major center of family get-togethers.

When John F. Kennedy was asked about the level of involvement and influence that his father had held in his razor-thin presidential victory, JFK would joke that on the eve before the election, his father had asked him the exact number of votes he would need to win - there was no way he was paying "for a landslide." John's presidency was a victory for Joe[citation needed]. He saw it as a step forward not just for his son but for the entire Kennedy family. Joe was a family man and strategically constructed his family's image towards the public. He once said,"Image is reality", and the presidency framed the Kennedy family picture.[28][29]

Stroke and death

On December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, Kennedy suffered a major stroke. He survived, but lost all power of speech, and was left paralyzed on his right side. Kennedy did regain certain functions with the help of therapies. Most notably, he went to The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in 1964, a Philadelphia center that teaches therapies for people with brain injuries. Kennedy made gains with therapy, and began walking with the help of a cane. His speech also showed some improvement.[30] However, being 75 years old and greatly weakened, Kennedy was soon confined to a wheelchair. Despite being severely disabled from the stroke, Kennedy remained aware of the tragedies that befell his family until his own death, on November 18, 1969, two months after his eighty-first birthday. His final public appearance was with Rose and Sen. Edward Kennedy in a videotaped message to the country a few weeks after the death of Robert Kennedy, which showed his extremely frail physical condition.

In fiction

In the alternate history novel Fatherland by Robert Harris, set in 1964, Joseph P. Kennedy—not his son John F. Kennedy—is president of the United States and about to arrive in Berlin to conclude a treaty with Adolf Hitler. Joseph Kennedy also plays a significant role as a character in Michael Dobbs's fictionalized account of the rise of Winston Churchill, Winston's War.


Joseph P. Kennedy's ancestors in three generations
1– Joseph P. Kennedy
2– Francis Benedict Kennedy
(03.11. 1891–06.14.1892)
3– Mary Loretta Kennedy
4– Margaret Louise Kennedy
P. J. Kennedy
Paternal grandfather:
Patrick Kennedy
Paternal great-grandfather:
James Kennedy
Paternal great-grandmother:
Maria Kennedy
Paternal grandmother:
Bridget Murphy
Paternal great-grandfather:
Philip Murphy
Paternal great-grandmother:
Mary Barron
Mary Augusta Hickey
Maternal grandfather:
James Hickey
Maternal great-grandfather:
Maternal great-grandmother:
Maternal grandmother:
Margaret M. Field
Maternal great-grandfather:
Maternal great-grandmother:

See also


  1. ^ "John F Kennedy Presidential Library", "Joseph P Kennedy" (biography)
  2. ^ Richard J. Whalen, The Founding Father, 1964.
  3. ^ Boston Sunday Globe of November 10, 1940.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved March 8, 2010.
  5. ^ The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys (1987) by Doris Kearns Goodwin pp. 330-333
  6. ^ "Ecommerce: Who wants to be a millionaire", Computer Business Review, February 2000.[1]
  7. ^ Time Magazine: The Merits of Speculation
  8. ^ Michael R. Marrus, Samuel Bronfman: The Life and Times of Seagram's Mr. Sam
  9. ^ The TIME 100, Heroes & Icons,
  10. ^ Leamer 93; Brinkley 127.
  11. ^ Maier pp 103-107
  12. ^ Smith pp. 122, 171, 379, 502; Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest (1984) p. 127; Michael Kazin, The Populist persuasion (1995) pp. 109, 123.
  13. ^ Hersh 64.
  14. ^ a b Hersh 63.
  15. ^ Boston Sunday Globe of November 10, 1940
  16. ^ Leamer pp. 152-53; William E. Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to George W. Bush (2001) pp. 68-72
  17. ^ Leamer 66, 72; Renehan 5.
  18. ^ Leamer 115.
  19. ^ Hersh 64; Renehan 29.
  20. ^ Renehan 60.
  21. ^ Renehan 26-27; Leamer 136.
  22. ^ Renehan, "Kennedy and the Jews".
  23. ^ Leamer 134.
  24. ^ Fleming, Thomas The New Dealers' War: F.D.R. And The War Within World War II, Basic Books, 2001.
  25. ^ Renehan 311.
  26. ^ Leamer pp 313, 434; Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor. American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley- His Battle for Chicago and the Nation (2001) p. 250; Timothy J. Meagher. The Columbia Guide to Irish American History (2005) p.150.
  27. ^ Michael O'Brien, John F. Kennedy: A Biography (2005), 250-54, 274-79, 396-400; Thomas C. Reeves, The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy (1982), 442-3; Maier, The Kennedys 270-80.
  28. ^ Whalen pp. 435-82
  29. ^ Whalen
  30. ^ Time Magazine, May 22, 1964. Website:,9171,871108,00.html?promoid=googlep


  • Brinkley, Alvin. Voices of Protest. Vintage, 1983.
  • Goodwin, Doris K., The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga (1987)
  • Hersh, Seymour. The Dark Side of Camelot. Back Bay Books, 1998.
  • Leamer, Laurence. The Kennedy Men: . Harper, 2002.
  • Thomas Maier, The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings (2003)
  • Kessler, Ronald, The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded, Warner , 1996, ISBN
  • O'Brien, Michael. John F. Kennedy: A Biography (2005)
  • Renehan, Edward. The Kennedys at War, . Doubleday, 2002.
  • Renehan, Edward. "Joseph Kennedy and the Jews". History News Network. George Mason University, April 29, 2002.
  • Schwarz, Ted, "Joseph P. Kennedy" 2003, ISBN
  • Smith, Amanda, ed. Hostage to Fortune: The Letters of Joseph P. Kennedy (2002), the major collection of letters to and from Kennedy
  • Whalen, Richard J., "The Founding Father: The Story of Joseph P. Kennedy". The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1964.

External links

Government offices
New title Securities and Exchange Commission Chair
Succeeded by
James M. Landis
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Worth Bingham
U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
John G. Winant
Honorary titles

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