Joseph Patrick Kennedy was an American businessman, investor, and politician known for his high-profile positions in United States politics. Kennedy was married to Rose Kennedy. Three of their nine children attained distinguished political positions: President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968), and longtime Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy (1932–2009).
Joseph Patrick Kennedy was born in 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the elder son of businessman and politician Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy and Mary Augusta Hickey. He had a younger brother Francis (who died young), and two younger sisters, Mary and Margaret. All four of Joe's grandparents had immigrated to Massachusetts in the 1840s to escape the Irish famine.
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.
In 1937, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University.
In the 1932 presidential election, Joseph P. Kennedy supported Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, in turn, named Kennedy chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed as chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission.
In 1937, Joseph Kennedy became the first Irish American to serve as the U.S. British ambassador, a position he held for three years thereafter; he resigned in 1940, convinced that Britain would be taken over by Nazi Germany and that America's only hope lay in staying out of the coming conflict. According to a November 1940 article in the Boston Sunday Globe, upon returning from England on the eve of World War II, Kennedy said, "Democracy is finished in England. It may be here." His controversial views earned him a reputation as an anti-Semite and appeaser of Hitler, in addition to perceptions that he was a womanizer and probably had ties to organized crime.
After the loss of his first son, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., during WWII, Kennedy stepped back from public life and concentrated on grooming his three remaining sons for political office.
Joseph P. Kennedy suffered a debilitating stroke in 1961. He died at the Kennedy compound, on Cape Cod along Nantucket Sound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, on November 18, 1969, at the age of 81.
Special advisory committee member Big Thicket Association, Saratoga, Texas, 1972. Board trustees Armand Bayou Nature Center, Inc., 1974. Member environmental conservation committee Houston Chamber of Commerce C., 1975-1976.
Member Society Study Amphibians and Reptiles (life).
On October 7, 1914, Kennedy married Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (political rival of P. J.) and Mary Josephine "Josie" Hannon. The marriage joined two of the city's most prominent political families.
The couple had nine children. As Kennedy's business success expanded, he and his family kept homes in the Boston area, suburban New York City, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida.
Always financially astute, brilliant and driven, Joseph Kennedy became a millionaire by the age of 30 through investments in the movie business and alcohol distribution. He ran a movie studio in the 1920s, during which time he had an affair with actress Gloria Swanson. Kennedy retired from stock trading at age 41, amassing enough capital to build million-dollar trust funds for each of his nine children.