P. J. Kennedy

P. J. Kennedy

P. J. Kennedy, c.1900
Massachusetts House of Representatives
2nd Suffolk District
In office
Massachusetts State Senate
4th Suffolk District
In office
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Kennedy
(1858-01-14)January 14, 1858
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died May 18, 1929(1929-05-18) (aged 71)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Augusta Hickey (m. 1887; d. 1923)
Children Joseph, Francis, Mary, and Margaret
Parents Patrick Kennedy
Bridget Murphy
Occupation Politician, businessman
Religion Roman Catholicism

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

The son of Irish immigrants, he was the only surviving male in the family, following two outbreaks of cholera, and started work at fourteen as a stevedore in the docks. He 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 Irish and the Protestant elite, and he sat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and in the Massachusetts Senate. His particular talent was for the behind-the-scenes machinations for which Boston politics became so notorious.

Early life

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

P. J. 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 P. J. was born. Ten months after P. J.'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, P. J. was the first Kennedy 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, P. J. Kennedy left school to work with his mother and three older sisters, Mary, Johanna, 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 he died 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]

Marriage and children

On November 23, 1887, he married Mary Augusta Hickey (December 6, 1857 – May 6, 1923),[2] daughter of James Hickey and Margaret Martha Field.[3] Kennedy and his wife had four children.

Joseph Patrick "Joe" KennedySeptember 6, 1888November 18, 196981 years, 2 monthsMarried on October 7, 1914, to Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald (July 22, 1890 – January 22, 1995); 9 children
Francis Benedict KennedyMarch 11, 1891June 14, 18921 year, 3 months
Mary Loretta KennedyAugust 6, 1892November 18, 197280 years, 3 monthsMarried on October 12, 1927, to George William Connelly (June 10, 1898 – August 29, 1971); one daughter
Margaret Louise Kennedy October 22, 1898 November 14, 197476 years, 1 monthMarried on June 14, 1924, to Charles Joseph Burke (August 23, 1899 – April 5, 1967); three children

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


In 1914, Kennedy's son Joe married philanthropist Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald (1890–1995), the eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (1863–1950) and Mary Josephine "Josie" Hannon (1865–1964). Joe and Rose had nine children, including World War II casualty Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (1915–1944), President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968), and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy (1932–2009). The Patrick J. Kennedy School, named for him, is a public grammar school located in East Boston.


  1. 1 2 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.
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