A June 1948 FBI memo included background profiles on members of a twelve-member commission established in 1947 to streamline operations in the federal government. Joseph Kennedy, one of the twelve members, was made a Special Service Contact for the FBI’s Boston office shortly after this memo was written.
Office Memorandum: UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
Date: June 9, 1948
Maj: [blacked out text]
To: Mr. Nichols
From: Mr. A. Jones
Subject: COMMISSION ON ORGANIZATION OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OFTHE GOVERNMENT
You will recall that some weeks ago you suggested that complete memoranda be prepared on the twelve-member commission appointed pursuant to a bill of July 7, 1947, to make studies which will help Congress promote efficiency in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. This Commission reportedly will sit until April, 1949, and is under the leadership of the Honorable Herbert Hoover. Among its purposes are defining and limiting functio- [cut off text] abolishing unnecessary services, eliminating duplication, cutting down expenditures, etc.
Attached are summary memoranda on the following which are listed in alphabetical order:
(1) Dean Acheson (Former Undersecretary of State)
(2) George D. Aiken (Senator)
(3) Clarence J. Brown (Congressman)
(4) Arthur Sherwood Flemming (Civil Service Commissioner)
(5) James Forrestal (Secretary of Defense)
(6) Herbert Hoover (Former President)
(7) Joseph P. Kennedy (Former Ambassador to Great Britain)
(8) Carten Monasco (Congressman)
(9) John L. McClellan (Senator)
(10) George Houk Mead (Industrialist)
(11) Dr. James Kerr Pollock (University of Michigan)
(12) James H. Rowe, Jr. (Former Assistant to President Roosevelt and Assistant to the Attorney General)
A perusal of these memoranda will reveal that none of the individuals have indicated any basic hostility toward the FBI. In fact, the vast majority of them have indicated a very friendly attitude toward the Bureau. It is noted that in a few instances such as Dean Acheson and Dr. James Kerr Pollock the individuals are somewhat liberal.
Background Profile of Joe Kennedy
June 9, 1948
Re: Joseph P. Kennedy
A. Personal History
It was on East Boston’s Meridian Street that Joseph P. Kennedy was born on September 6, 1888, the son of Patrick J. and Mary (Hickey) Kennedy. His father was a politician with a coal business and part interest in a number of saloons, so that the Kennedys were moderately well off. Just the same, Joe peddled papers, sold candy on an excursion steamer, took tickets on a sightseeing boat, and went to parochial school until the seventh grade. Then he attended the Boston Latin School where he made a record for himself as an athlete. He continued his education at Harvard, graduating with a B.A. Degree in 1912, and entered the business world with $5,000 earned by driving a sightseeing bus during his summers at college.
Kennedy’s first job was as a bank examiner for Massachusetts, but after eighteen months he managed to borrow enough money to buy part of the stock of the Columbia Trust, and in 1914, he was elected president of the bank. He was only twenty-five, the youngest bank president in the United States.
On October 7, 1914, Joseph Kennedy married Rose Fitzgerald, the daughter of a former Mayor of Boston, and they are the parents of nine children. Kennedy’s father-in-law made him director for the city of the Collateral Loan Company, but in 1917, he quit banking for a while and became assistant general manager of Fore River Plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. He spent twenty months building ships for Bethlehem Steel and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, got himself on the board of trustees of the Massachusetts Electric Company, and finally in 1919, joined the Boston Branch of the Hayden-Stone Company, investment bankers. In that same year, Kennedy also bought control of a New England chain of thirty-one small movie houses, and for several years he speculated extensively on the stock market.
In 1926, Kennedy sold part of his little theater chain, bought control of the Film Booking Offices of America, and started making motion pictures. In 1928, he became special supervisor on the board of Pathe, and later chairman of the board. He bought a controlling interest in Keith, Albee, Orpheum Theaters Corporation and for five months served as chairman of their board. Finally, a reshuffling of stocks and the formation of Radio, Keith, Orpheum, left him holding a fortune in RKO. He retained only the chairmanship of Pathe, and left that position in 1930, but when he quit the movies he was reportedly worth five million dollars.
(Current Biography 1940; Who’s Who in America 1948-49)
B. Kennedy’s Interest in National Politics (1932-1938)
It was reported that Kennedy gave fifteen thousand dollars to the 1932 democratic campaign fund, lent five thousand more, and is supposed to have contributed another one hundred thousand indirectly. In that year he traveled with the Roosevelt Campaign Train, and in 1934, Roosevelt appointed Kennedy head of the Securities Exchange Commission, a choice which aroused considerable comment due to Kennedy’s background of market speculation. But when Kennedy resigned in September, 1935, it was generally conceded that he had done a good job.
Back in private life, Kennedy worked for a short time as an independent corporation consultant reorganizing RCA, making a report on Paramount Pictures and reorganizing the Hearst properties. He also published a campaign volume, I’m For Roosevelt, (1936). In October, 1936, Washington columnist Ray Tucker stated that Kennedy was “working the millionaires’ side of the New Deal Street” by assuring the “economic royalists” that F.D.R. had run out of radical blueprints. In 1937, Roosevelt made him chairman of the newly-formed Maritime Commission, set up to create an American Merchant Marine and to administer the United States Merchant Marine Act. He was in charge for seventy-five days, during which he settled many operators’ claims against the Government, and worked out a scheme for subsidizing shipping companies to the tune of twenty-five million dollars a year. The National Maritime Union called Kennedy a “Union Wrecker” because of his advocacy of legislation to outlaw strikes and make arbitration of labor disputes compulsory. This attitude was evidenced six years later when Kennedy was being considered as National Executive Director of the United Seamen’s Service, Inc. He was not approved due to the violent objections of Joseph Curran and the N.M.U. On February 18, 1938, Kennedy resigned the chairmanship of the Maritime Commission to accept the post of United States Ambassador (first Irish and first Catholic) to Great Britain. (Current Biography 1940; 100-138377-62; 61-7550-672X3)
C. Kennedy and Appeasement
On June 14, 1939, the Director transmitted to Presidential Secretary Stephen Early a copy of a section of the Foreign Observer, dated at New York City on June 1, 1939. The Director invited Early’s attention to remarks quoted therein from the privately circulated and well-informed “Week” of London which reflected British bewilderment as to why Kennedy was allowed to remain as Ambassador considering his record as an appeaser and an apologist for Chamberlain. This publication reported that Kennedy had informed members of the British Government that they need not worry about anything that Mr. Roosevelt may say, for the reason that (1) “It will be my friends that are in the White House in 1940.” (2) “Roosevelt is run by the Jews and all the anti-fascist sentiment in the United States is largely created by the Jews who run the press.” Week indicated that Kennedy’s statements [illegible handwritten text] were causing considerable confusion in British Cabinet meetings as to whether they reflected the true American opinion regarding appeasement of his powers.
In October, 1940, Kennedy returned to the United States, and in November submitted his resignation, which was not immediately accepted. On January 13, 1941, John O’Donnell, anti-Roosevelt and anti-British columnist, charged that Ambassador Kennedy was ready to attack the administration but was being muzzled by Roosevelt’s failure to release him from his Ambassador-ship. At about this time, Kennedy’s report to the President, submitted prior to his resignation, but suppressed by the administration, began to leak out. It briefly indicated that in Kennedy’s opinion democracy was finished in Great Britain and that Fascism was taking hold in that country. (61-7566-2191; 62-65764-17; 97-427-4X; 94-3-4-763-1)
Bureau files indicated that Kennedy’s appeasement sentiments were shared by two of his sons. On December 17, 1940, the Associated Press reported that a group of Harvard students had announced a new peace group, the Harvard Committee Against Military Intervention in Europe, and listed Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., son of the then Ambassador, as one of its members. (61-10498)
[paragraph of blacked out text] (65-39058-4,7,73)
On April 27, 1947, Assistant Director D. M. Ladd commented by memorandum on Kennedy’s appeasement attitude, stating that it was “thought to be important only as it threw light on his present views about Russia as reported by Mr. Arthur Krock.”
Krock of the New York Times, writing from Florida, described Kennedy as spokesman for a group of industrialists and financiers who believed that Russia should not be opposed at any point. Our American energies should be devoted to keeping America prosperous. Thus, when Communism fails in Russia, or more properly in the rest of Europe, the people whose faith in Communism has been destroyed by its failure will return their allegiance to democratic beliefs. Then, according to Kennedy, the only country to which they will be able to turn for aid will be the United States, and thus the complete superiority of the democratic over the Communistic system will be demonstrated. (94-37808-4)
II. Contacts With the Bureau
In June, 1938, Special Agent [blacked out text] advised that he had received very cordial treatment from Ambassador Kennedy in London while Acers was there visiting Scotland Yard. (1-16-36-126)
It is of primary interest that Joseph P. Kennedy has been listed as a special service contact of the Boston Field Division since September 7, 1943. In a letter dated December 27, 1943, the Boston Office advised that the Resident Agent in Hyannis, Massachusetts, had had many productive investigative and social contacts with Mr. Kennedy. In a report for the quarter ending October, 1944, the Special Agent in Charge stated that the assistance of Mr. Kennedy had been enlisted in the case entitled [blacked out text]. Because of his previous experience in the shipbuilding business Kennedy was in a position to make valuable inquiries regarding the case and did so, and furnished the field office with the results. No further special contacts are reflected with Kennedy since that time. (67-380854)
On April 20, 1946, Joseph P. Kennedy called the Director’s Office from New York and left word that [blacked out text].
In April, 1942, the Bureau received unsolicited information from a confidential source of unknown reliability concerning certain transactions implicating [blacked out text], Joseph P. Kennedy, [blacked out text], and [blacked out text]. [Blacked out text] reportedly traveled to England just prior to the repeal of prohibition and by virtue of his relationship to secured exclusive outlet rights for the United States from Distillers Limited, which reportedly controlled almost the entire Scotch Whiskey output in England. American liquor interests were said to have objected strenuously to the above procedure and caused their presidential and congressional contacts to bring pressure against it. [blacked out text] on being rebuked by [blacked out text], allegedly contacted Joseph P. Kennedy, then chairman of the Maritime Commission, suggesting that the latter assume the interest previously secured. To avoid any objections that might have been imposed by Distillers Limited, regarding the continuation of these contacts by Kennedy, it was considered a good idea to have Kennedy go to Great Britain as Ambassador. Kennedy reportedly carried on with the agreements entered into by [blacked out text] and allegedly received an annual income from that source of over one million dollars. It was finally alleged that [blacked out text] who had been informed of the above, was reluctant to act on the information since its disclosure would likely create disunity while the Nation was at war. (100-99500)
In October, 1942, [blacked out text] entered the United States from Mexico and failed to present her jewelry for Customs Examination. During her interrogation by a Customs Agent, subject stated that she knew former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy and that he could testify that the jewelry was hers. Subject is an American born international adventuress who has admittedly cohabitated with prominent German officials after the fall of France and the jewels were claimed to be gifts from former admirers. (100-29023-56)
In 1944, it was noted that Joseph P. Kennedy was one of the majority stockholders of the corporation controlling Haileah Race Track in Florida. Kennedy was also indicated to be engaged in the liquor business and owned several moving picture houses in New York City. (62-75147-16, Page 96)
It should also be noted that Miss Eunice Kennedy, a daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, is employed in the Department of Justice as Executive Secretary to the Attorney General in charge of juvenile matters.
[Blacked out text] a neighbor of his in Palm Beach, Florida, believed she was being investigated by the FBI. Kennedy said the story sounded “fishy” to him and wondered if he could be advised on the situation. The Miami Office conducted inquiry and found the story was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of [blacked out text] who had apparently exaggerated an inquiry by a real estate dealer to one of her neighbors. No impersonation of Bureau Agents was involved. The Director talked to Kennedy later the same day and so advised him. (62-80916)
On May 23, 1946, an article entitled “Let Us Not Pursue False Gods” by Joseph P. Kennedy appeared in the Commercial and Financial Chronicle published in New York. Under the heading “Capable Men Needed in Politics,” Kennedy stated in part, “I say without fear that nowhere in any country will you find a more efficient body of public servants than the young men in our FBI, as organized and directed by J. Edgar Hoover. Intelligent, alert, imaginative, sympathetic to public opinion and citizens’ needs, it is tops in public administration and service.” (94-36077-1)
III. Associations of Interest to the Bureau
It will be recalled that in May, 1940, Ambassador Kennedy figured prominently in the arrest of Tyler Kent, American Embassy code clerk who subsequently served five years in a British prison. Kent was discharged from his job and was convicted in British court for violating the Official Secrets Act for having in his possession confidential Embassy documents. (65-27850)
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