P. J. Kennedy

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P. J. Kennedy
P. J. Kennedy, c. 1900
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
from the 4th Suffolk district
In office
January 3, 1889 – January 3, 1895
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 2nd Suffolk district
In office
January 3, 1884 – January 3, 1889
Personal details
Patrick Joseph Kennedy

(1858-01-14)January 14, 1858
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 18, 1929(1929-05-18) (aged 71)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mary Augusta Hickey
(m. 1887; died 1923)
RelationsSee Kennedy family
Children4, including Joseph
ParentPatrick Kennedy
OccupationBusinessman and politician

Patrick Joseph Kennedy (January 14, 1858 – May 18, 1929) was an American businessman and politician from Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife Mary were the parents of four children, including future U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. Their grandchildren through Joseph include U.S. President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and longtime U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

After cholera killed his father and brother, Kennedy was the only surviving male in his family. He started work at age fourteen and became a successful businessman, later owning three saloons and a whisky import house. Eventually, he had major interests in coal and banking as well. Kennedy was a major figure in the Democratic Party in Boston. Though he served in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the state Senate, he preferred to play a behind-the-scenes role as a party boss.

Early life[edit]

Young Kennedy around the mid-to-late 1870s

Patrick Joseph Kennedy was born on January 14, 1858, in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] He was the youngest of five children born to Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) and Bridget Kennedy (née Murphy) (1824–1888). His parents were Irish Catholic immigrants who were both from New Ross, County Wexford and emigrated together to America to flee the Great Famine in Ireland. The couple's elder son John had died of cholera in infancy two years before Kennedy was born. Ten months after P.J. Kennedy's birth, his father Patrick also succumbed to the infectious epidemic that infested the family's East Boston neighborhood. As the only surviving male, Kennedy was the first family member to receive a formal education, attending Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school in Boston. His mother Bridget had purchased an East Boston stationery and notions store where she had worked. The business took off and expanded into a grocery and liquor store.[2]

At the age of fourteen, young Kennedy left school to help support his mother and three older sisters, Mary, Joanna, and Margaret, as a stevedore on the Boston docks. In the 1880s, with money he had saved from his modest earnings and help from his mother Bridget, he launched a business career by buying a saloon in the Haymarket Square neighborhood near downtown Boston. In time, he bought a second establishment by the East Boston docks. Next, to capitalize on the social drinking of upper-class Bostonians, Kennedy purchased a third bar in an upscale East Boston hotel, the Maverick House. Before he was 30, his growing prosperity allowed him to buy a whiskey-importing business.[3]

Marriage and children[edit]

On November 23, 1887, Kennedy married Mary Augusta Hickey.[1] The couple had four children and remained married until Hickey's death on May 6, 1923.[4] His wealth afforded them a home on Jeffries Point in East Boston.[5]

Name Birth Death Age Notes
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. September 6, 1888 November 18, 1969 81 years, 2 months Married on October 7, 1914, to Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald (July 22, 1890 – January 22, 1995); 9 children
Francis Benedict Kennedy March 11, 1891 June 14, 1892 1 year, 3 months
Mary Loretta Kennedy August 6, 1892 November 18, 1972 80 years, 3 months Married on October 12, 1927, to George William Connelly (June 10, 1898 – August 29, 1971); one daughter
Margaret Louise Kennedy October 22, 1898 November 14, 1974 76 years, 23 days Married on June 14, 1924, to Charles Joseph Burke (August 23, 1899 – April 5, 1967); three children

Political career[edit]

P. J. Kennedy in 1893 as a Massachusetts State Senator

Kennedy was "always ready to help less fortunate fellow Irishmen with a little cash and some sensible advice." A sociable man able to mix comfortably with both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant elite, Kennedy moved successfully into politics. Beginning in 1884, he converted his popularity into service as a Democrat, a minority in the then Republican dominant power in the Massachusetts General Court. He served five consecutive one-year terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, followed by three two-year terms in the upper chamber in the Massachusetts Senate. Establishing himself as one of Boston's principal Democratic leaders, he gave one of the seconding speeches for incumbent President Grover Cleveland at the party's 1888 national convention of the party in St. Louis. However, he found campaigning, speech making, and legislative maneuvering, to be less appealing than the behind-the-scenes machinations that characterized so much of Boston politics in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. After leaving the Senate and the General Court after many terms in 1895, Kennedy spent the rest of his political career as an appointed elections commissioner, an appointed city fire commissioner, as the backroom boss of Boston's Ward Two, and as a member of his party's unofficial Board of Strategy.[6]


By the time of his death in 1929, Kennedy held an interest in a coal company and a substantial amount of stock in a bank, the Columbia Trust Company.[5]

In his later years, Kennedy developed degenerative liver disease. In April 1929, he was admitted to Deaconess Hospital to receive treatment.[7] He died there on May 18 at the age of 71. His funeral was held at St. John the Evangelist Church in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on May 21. The Boston Globe reported that hundreds of mourners lined the streets to watch Kennedy's funeral procession and businesses in East Boston closed to honor him.[8] Kennedy is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.[9]


In 1914, P.J. Kennedy's son Joseph married Rose Fitzgerald (July 22, 1890 – January 22, 1995), the eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald (1863–1950).[10] Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. went on to become a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair[10] and a U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.[11]

Joseph and Rose Kennedy had nine children, including World War II casualty Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., U.S. President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.[12]


  1. ^ a b O'Brien, Michael (2006). John F. Kennedy: A Biography. St. Martin's Press. p. 9.
  2. ^ "A Rise to Prominence: John F. Kennedy's Paternal Lineage". National Park Service.
  3. ^ Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963. pp. 7–8.
  4. ^ "Mary Augusta Hickey". Find A Grave. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Dallek, Robert (2003). "Beginnings". An unfinished life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963. Little, Brown, and Co. ISBN 978-0-316-17238-7. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  6. ^ Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917 - 1963. p. 8.
  7. ^ Kennedy, Joseph Patrick (2001). Smith, Amanda (ed.). Hostage to Fortune: The Letters of Joseph P. Kennedy. Viking. p. 82. ISBN 0-670-86969-4.
  8. ^ Kearns Goodwin, Doris (1991). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. Macmillan. p. 412. ISBN 0-312-06354-7.
  9. ^ Rachlin, Harvey (1986). The Kennedys: A Chronological History, 1823 to Present. World Almanac. p. 24. ISBN 0-345-33729-8.
  10. ^ a b "The Wedding That Changed American History". Time.
  11. ^ "Prohibition and Profit: The Secret Kennedy-Churchill-Roosevelt Deals". Time.
  12. ^ "Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Death Leaves 2 Living Kennedy Siblings". Fox News. March 25, 2015.