Joseph Kennedy, Sr.

Business Personality / Political Figure

Born: 6 September 1888
Died: 19 November 1969 (complications from stroke)
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Best known as: The millionaire father of President John F. Kennedy
The patriarch of the political Kennedy family, Joseph P. Kennedy was born in Boston during the city's Irish boom of the late 1800s. He became the father of a president and two U.S. senators and achieved his own fame as a businessman and political force. Famously ambitious, Joseph Kennedy attended Harvard and by age 25 was already president of a small bank. Later he moved into investment banking, movie theaters, film production and liquor, becoming wealthy in the process. (It is often alleged, but does not seem to be true, that he ran liquor illegally during Prohibition.) Joseph Kennedy supported Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in the elections of 1932; in 1933 the new president made Kennedy chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1938 FDR appointed him ambassador to Britain, making Kennedy the first Irish Catholic to hold that post. He resigned in 1940, when his commitment to American neutrality in World War II made him an awkward ambassador to an American ally fighting for its survival against Nazi Germany. After the war he became a key player in the political campaigns of his son, John F. Kennedy: “We’re going to sell Jack like soap flakes” was his famous quote before the 1946 election. John Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946, to the U.S. Senate in 1952, and to the presidency in 1961. Joseph Kennedy's 1913 marriage to Rose Fitzgerald, the daughter of Boston mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, resulted in nine children. Two of their other sons, Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy, became U.S. senators. Joseph Kennedy had a stroke in December of 1961, less than a year after his son became president. Though physically disabled by the stroke, Joe Kennedy survived another eight years, dying in 1969.
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Several of Joseph Kennedy’s children died tragically: his oldest son Joe Kennedy, Jr. was killed in a plane explosion during World War II; daughter Kathleen (“Kick”) was killed in a plane crash in France after the war; sons John and Robert were assassinated. Another daughter, Rosemary, had a lobotomy in 1941 and was institutionalized thereafter… Joseph Kennedy, Sr. tried to break into the movie business in the late 1920s. He failed at making movies, but he succeeded in having a three-year affair with star Gloria Swanson… Joseph Kennedy, Sr. bought (in 1928) the original house in Hyannisport, Massachusetts that became the family’s famous summer compound and home-away-from-home.

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