Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Sr. (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) was a prominent American businessman and political figure, and the father of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and United States Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. He was a leading member of the Democratic Party and of the Irish Catholic community. He was the inaugural Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later directed the Maritime Commission. Kennedy served briefly as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom at the start of World War II.
Born to a political family in Boston, Massachusetts, Joseph Kennedy was educated at Boston Latin and Harvard University, and embarked on a career in finance, making a large fortune as a stock market and commodity investor and by investing in real estate and a wide range of industries, including bootlegging, the illegal importation of alcohol into the United States during Prohibition. During World War I, he was an assistant general-manager of Bethlehem Steel and developed a friendship with Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Kennedy made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood studios, ultimately merging several acquisitions into Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) studios. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Kennedy consolidated an even larger fortune when his company, Somerset Importers, became the exclusive American agent for Gordon's Gin and Dewar's Scotch. He owned the largest office building in the country, Chicago's Merchandise Mart, giving his family an important base in that city and an alliance with the Irish-American political leadership there.
His term as Ambassador and his political ambitions ended abruptly during the Battle of Britain in November 1940, with the publishing of his controversial remarks suggesting that "Democracy is finished in England. It may be here, ." In later years, Kennedy worked behind the scenes to continue building the financial and political fortunes of the Kennedy family. After a disabling stroke on December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, Kennedy lost all power of speech, and remained confined to a wheelchair, although mentally intact. He died on November 18, 1969, two months after his eighty-first birthday — just 4 days away from the sixth anniversary of the assassination of his son John F. Kennedy.