Businessman, United States Political Figure. Best known as Patriarch of the Kennedy Family and the father of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a saloonkeeper, he was a hardworking, ambitious boy who got into Harvard, was popular and did well academically, but was shut out the more prestigious social clubs because of his Irish Catholic heritage. He graduated with two burning desires: to become a millionaire by the age of thirty, and to show up the Protestants who had snubbed him. Kennedy found the perfect Irish Catholic wife in Rose Fitzgerald, whose father was the mayor of Boston. They were married in 1914 and settled in Brookline, Massachusetts. Their first child, Joe Jr., was born the following year. Eight more children would follow; the youngest was Edward, born in 1932. Rose raised the children while Joe built a fortune in stock market arbitrage, banking, shipbuilding, and motion-picture distribution. During this period Kennedy was known for his indiscreet affairs with starlets, most notably with Gloria Swanson. Aside from Kennedy's legitimate business dealings, most historians agree that he probably bootlegged liquor from Europe during the 1920s. However, he was quite respectable by the time President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him as the first Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, and later, in 1937, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. In 1938, Kennedy reached the peak of his political prestige when Roosevelt appointed him Ambassador to Great Britain, the first Irish Catholic ever to hold the post. Kennedy felt sure that he was on the road to the presidency, but problems soon arose. A staunch isolationist, Kennedy argued for the appeasement of Hitler and wanted the United States to stay out of any conflict that might occur between Britain and Germany. Needless to say, this line did not sit well with the English. Kennedy resigned under pressure in 1940 and returned home in disgrace. Two of Kennedy's children died four years apart in airplane mishaps. His eldest son, Joe Jr., a Naval Aviator, was killed in August 1944 when his plane suddenly exploded near the English town of Blythburgh, and his eldest daughter Kathleen, who was estranged from her Catholic family for marrying a Protestant, died in an airplane crash in May 1948 in France. After his eldest son's death, he focused on the career of his second son, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. John was a decorated war hero who had no problem getting elected Senator from Massachusetts. When he ran for president in 1960, the vote was very close and Joseph Kennedy's wealth and influence is thought to have made a critical difference. Kennedy was elated to see his son become the first Roman Catholic president, but shortly after the election, he suffered a series of strokes that left him in a wheelchair and unable to speak. In this impotent condition, he was told about the assassinations of his sons John and Robert, and the controversial car accident at Chappaquidick that destroyed the presidential aspirations of his last remaining son, Edward. Kennedy died soon after Chappaquidick, in 1969, at the age of 81.
Bio by: Edward Parsons
Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald Kennedy
1890–1995 (m. 1914)