P. J. Kennedy
PJ Kennedy.jpg
P. J. Kennedy, c. 1900
Massachusetts State Senator
from the 4th Suffolk District
In office
Member of the
Massachusetts House of Representatives
from the 2nd Suffolk District
In office
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
ChildrenJoseph, Francis, Mary, and Margaret
ParentsPatrick Kennedy
Bridget Murphy
OccupationBusinessman and politician

Patrick Joseph Kennedy (January 14, 1858 – May 18, 1929) was an American businessman and politician. Kennedy was a major figure in the Democratic Party in Boston. He was the father of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and the paternal grandfather of President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy was the only surviving male in the family after two outbreaks of cholera killed his father and brother. He started work at fourteen as a stevedore in the docks. Kennedy owned three saloons and a whisky import house, and eventually had major interests in coal and banking. He moved successfully into politics, as a sociable man able to mix comfortably with both the Catholic and the Protestant elite. Though he served in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the state Senate, he was more comfortable applying himself to Boston's notorious behind-the-scenes politics.

Early life

Young P. J. Kennedy around the mid-to-late 1870s

Kennedy was the youngest of five children born to Irish Catholic immigrants Patrick Kennedy (1823–1858) and Bridget Murphy (1824–1888), who were both from New Ross, County Wexford, and married in Boston on September 26, 1849. The couple's elder son, John, had died of cholera in infancy two years before Kennedy was born. Ten months after Kennedy's birth, his father Patrick also succumbed to the infectious cholera 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. 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.

At the age of fourteen, Kennedy left school to work with 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, he launched a business career by buying a saloon in Haymarket Square downtown. In time, he bought a second establishment by the East Boston docks. Next, to capitalize on the social drinking of upper-class Boston, Kennedy purchased a third bar in an upscale East Boston hotel, the Maverick House. Before he was thirty, his growing prosperity allowed him to buy a whiskey-importing business.

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. His wealth afforded his family of one son and two daughters an attractive home on Jeffries Point in East Boston.[1]

Political career

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." He enjoyed the approval and respect of most folks in East Boston, living on the hill of a mixed Boston neighborhood of upscale Irish and Protestant elite. Beginning in 1884, he converted his popularity into five consecutive one-year terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, followed by three two-year terms in the Massachusetts Senate. Establishing himself as one of Boston's principal Democratic leaders, he was invited to give one of the seconding speeches for Grover Cleveland at the party's 1888 national convention 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 in 1895, Kennedy spent his political career as an appointed elections commissioner, an appointed fire commissioner, as the backroom boss of Boston's Ward Two, and as a member of his party's unofficial Board of Strategy.[1]

Personal life

On November 23, 1887, Kennedy married Mary Augusta Hickey (December 6, 1857 – May 6, 1923),[2] daughter of James Hickey and Margaret Martha Field.[3] The couple had four children and remained married until Hickey's death in May 1923.

Name Birth Death Age Notes
Joseph Patrick Kennedy 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, 1 month Married on June 14, 1924, to Charles Joseph Burke (August 23, 1899 – April 5, 1967); three children

Ted Kennedy, youngest son of Joseph, named his younger son Patrick (born 1967) to honor P. J. Kennedy.

In his later years, Kennedy developed degenerative liver disease. In April 1929, he was admitted to Deaconess Hospital to receive treatment.[4] 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.[5] Kennedy is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.[6]


In 1914, P.J. Kennedy's lone son Joseph married Rose Fitzgerald (1890–1995), the eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald (1863–1950). Joe and Rose had nine children, including World War II casualty Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (1915–1944), President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), Attorney General of the United States and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968), and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (1932–2009).

The Patrick J. Kennedy School is a public grammar school located in East Boston.


  1. ^ a b Dallek, Robert (2003). "Beginnings". An unfinished life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963. Little, Brown, and Co. ISBN 978-0-316-17238-7.
  2. ^ "Mary Augusta Hickey". Find A Grave. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  3. ^ "Michael Hickey". Home To Clare. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Joseph Patrick (2001). Smith, Amanda (ed.). Hostage to Fortune: The Letters of Joseph P. Kennedy. Viking. p. 82. ISBN 0-670-86969-4.
  5. ^ Kearns Goodwin, Doris (1991). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. Macmillan. p. 412. ISBN 0-312-06354-7.
  6. ^ Rachlin, Harvey (1986). The Kennedys: A Chronological History, 1823 to Present. World Almanac. p. 24. ISBN 0-345-33729-8.