Joseph Patrick Kennedy—whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War—was the patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty. The father of President John F. Kennedy and senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, “Joe” Kennedy was an indomitable and elusive figure whose dreams of advancement for his nine children were matched only by his extraordinary personal ambition and shrewd financial skills. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange savant, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain. Though his incredible life encompasses the very heart of the American century, Joseph Kennedy has remained shrouded in rumor and prejudice for decades.
Drawing on never-before-published material from archives on three continents, David Nasaw—the renowned biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst—unearths a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Was Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI? How did he influence his son’s politics and policies in the White House? In this groundbreaking biography Nasaw ignores the tired old answers surrounding Kennedy, starting from scratch to discover the truth behind this misunderstood man.
Though far from a saint, Joseph Kennedy in many ways exemplifies the best in American political, economic, and social life. His rags-to-riches story is one of exclusion and quiet discrimination overcome by entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and unshakable endurance. Kennedy’s story deserves to be told in full, with no holds barred, and Nasaw’s magnificent The Patriarch is the first book to do so.