The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963

The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963

by Laurence Leamer


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In this triumphant new work, the author of The Kennedy Women goes beyond anything previously published to chronicle the Kennedy men and their struggle to become the greatest, most powerful family in the United States. Beginning in 1901 with 12-year-old Joseph P. Kennedy and ending in 1963 with President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Laurence Leamer seamlessly unites the complex strands of their economic, political, and social rise.

This magnificent new volume is based on five years of interviews with Kennedy insiders and experts, as well as in-depth research including unprecedented new sources and materials: the private archives of JFK's longtime secretary Evelyn Lincoln, secret tapes JFK recorded in the Oval Office, revealing letters from the president's doctors, Rose Kennedy's never-before-heard interview tapes, interviewws with CIA operatives and Kennedy family members. Throughout, Leamer offers startling revelations on Joseph P. Kennedy's illegal business activities, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, JFK's health and political career, and much more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060502881
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/15/2002
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 928
Sales rank: 454,753
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.55(d)

About the Author

Laurence Leamer is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including The Kennedy Women and The Price of Justice. He has worked in a French factory and a West Virginia coal mine, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal. His play, Rose, was produced off Broadway last year. He lives in Palm Beach, Florida, and Washington, D.C., with his wife, Vesna Obradovic Leamer.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A True Man

Twelve-year-old Joseph Patrick Kennedy may have been dressed like a young gentleman, but he walked with the bold strut of an Irish tough full of the lore of the streets. As he hurried down Webster Street, his blue eyes exuded a hungry intensity for whatever life might offer. He was taller than most boys his age and had reddish hair and an abruptness to his features that left him just short of handsome. His strong, willful face had already lost whatever boyish innocence it once held.

Joe had been brought up on the island enclave of East Boston and knew the streets and byways with perfect acumen. Today, for the first time, he would be traveling without his family to the proud city across the bay. He would be passing through streets full of uncertainty, confronting strange new people. It was a prospect that would have filled many youths with apprehension, but nothing in Joe's demeanor suggested that he was worried about the adventure.

Joe's mother, Mary Augusta Hickey Kennedy, had arranged for her only son to deliver hats from a prestigious shop to the great ladies of Boston. Before Joe set off on his delivery in the summer in 1901, Mary Augusta looked at her son with what the family called "Hickey eyes." They were piercing, dismissive eyes that with a mere glance could stop a vulgarity in midsentence or send a supplicant reeling backward in shame. Joe's mother admonished him to behave impeccably and to refer to himself as the proper "Joseph," not the vulgar "Joe."

Joe rushed off down the street from the Kennedys' two-story home located in the best residential area. From up here on the highestelevation on the island, Joe could look down far below where passenger ships glided into the harbor packed with immigrants. Driven from their land by the great potato famine, between 1846 and 1849 nearly one hundred thousand Irish immigrants had arrived on Boston's pristine shores. Among them were Joe's grandparents. Patrick Kennedy had disembarked in 1849 on these very streets, where he and his bride, Bridget Murphy, set up residence in a tiny apartment.

After only nine years in East Boston, Joe's grandfather died. He left his thirty-seven-year-old widow with four children under the age of eight and an estate of seventy-five dollars. Bridget worked first as a servant but eventually found a job in a small variety store only a few blocks from where Joe now walked. In what was a difficult accomplishment for an immigrant widow, Bridget managed to buy the store.

Joe found his way to the hat shop and stepped up into the horse-driven wagon. As the driver guided the horse through the streets, the air was full of the stench of horse manure, the foul odor of rendering plants, the fumes of the steamers, the acrid malodor of the New England Pottery Company, and the smells of the Atlantic Steel Works.

The carriage rolled toward the mainland ferry, passing numerous taverns, dark havens that marked their presence by small signs. If Joe's father, Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy, had set a symbol of his success on his mantelpiece, it would have been a humble glass of beer. As a youth, P. J. worked a short while as a stevedore. Then P. J.'s mother had grubstaked her only son to open a pub. As for her daughters, Bridget followed the pattern of her people and her time. She sent one daughter off to work in the jute mills and settled for another to become a shirtmaker, while she did everything for her son.

P. J. drank only enough so that he would not appear a parsimonious sort, his shot glass filled not with whiskey but with beer. In P. J.'s tavern, as in most others in East Boston, the talk was usually of politics. P. J. carefully built his clientele, expanded into the wholesale liquor business, and entered politics as a state legislator. Favors were the mortar of P. J.'s career, and he built his career one brick at a time.

By the time Joe was born, P. J. was the Democratic ward boss for East Boston, one of the most powerful political figures in the city. With his husky figure and handlebar mustache, P. J. appeared the perfect rendering of an Irish-American politician. Every evening the petitioners arrived at the house on Webster Street, bewildered new arrivals clutching legal notices, unemployed workers looking for a city job, and widows about to be evicted.

As the carriage turned onto Meridian Square and the ferry landing, it passed the Columbia Trust Company, an imposing four-story brick and iron building. Joe's father was a founder of this new bank, one of the many businesses in which he was involved. The East Boston Argus Advocate, in a rare moment of candor, described P. J. as "slick as grease." Slick as grease he was, and slick as grease he had to be to climb out of the prison of poverty and accumulate a fortune, all without ever moving from East Boston.

When a husband died, P. J. was there with his condolences, but he was also there to buy the widow's house at a good price. He and his business associates bought extensive real estate and other businesses in East Boston, usually keeping their interest quiet. P. J. used his political power as a lever to push him into all kinds of deals, including a major position in the liquor wholesale business, an industry that he helped oversee in the state legislature.

No matter how well off he became, P. J. never flaunted his wealth. Though he sailed a yacht in the harbor in the summer and wintered in Florida, he still rode the trolley and tipped his hat to the ladies.

P. J. was a shrewd, practical man who endowed his son with...

The Kennedy Men. Copyright © by Laurence Leamer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Burton Hersh

"Leamer has . . . taken more chances than any other serious writer in the field. This is a breakthrough.

Myer Feldman

“If there is only one book about the Kennedys to read this must be it.”

Dan Moldea

"This book is full of extraordinary revelations . . . this is serious history written by a masterful storyteller.

Gus Russo

"The last word on America's greatest political dynasty. Draws the reader into the Kennedys as no book before.

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Kennedy Men, 1901-1963 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is NOT a Kennedy valentine, nor is it a Kennedy-basher. Instead, Leamer has written the most fascinating account yet of this incredible family of alpha males, beginning with old Joe and his leachery and treachery. But wait, scandal fans! Leamer also reveals highly documented, inside CIA information about the Cuban Missle crisis when the nation and the world were truly held in nuclear terror for days. And did you know JFK authorized napalm bombing of Cuban citizens during the Bay of Pigs invasion? I double-checked Leamer's footnotes and extensive research: he is accurate down to the last detail about Bobby, Marilyn Monroe, Lyndon Johnson, and the James Bond syndrome that gripped the Kennedy foreign policy. This is a book that every informed citizen needs when the next Kennedy scandal or tragedy occurs. It is also a valuable historical account of the charisma and character of the Kennedy men, their spectacular acheivements and devasting failures. I could not put this book down, because it can be opened at any page to rediscover our own American addiction for the ongoing Kennedy drama. From old Joe's anti-Semitism to Bobby Kennedy's passionate fight for the poor, or his hatred for Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedy juices flow hotly throughout this book, and the reader is never disappointed. 'The Kennedy Men' is in the Schlesinger, Sorenson, O'Donnell library class of authentic Kennedy biographical history, but it is much more: 'The Kennedy Men' by Leamer brings to life the real-life Kennedy impact on our national psyche.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only 15 years old.This book portrays the rough side of Camelot. A side that many Americans couldn't imagine. The reason I liked it so much is because I always get reports to do on JFK and I decided it would be fun to read about his life,the life of his brothers, and his father. It kind of shows a Rags to Riches story showing the determination that the Kenndy's had. But the book reveals the signs of the Kenndy Curse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this book but was disappointed. Apparently the Kennedy story is so worn now that they recycle covers. Ralph Martin's bio Seeds of Destruction used the same photo. The author has finally put to rest some of the rumors aboiut the mob and JFK, especially Judy Exner but his telling of the tale of the PT 109 incident and JFK's first campaign are both lacking in information and give short shift to the people who really were responsible for those events turning in Kennedy's favor. This could have been so much better.
kymarlee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting to see how the father Joe Kennedy's personality and lifestyle choices is reflected in the lives of his sons.
breeks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Leamer has done a fine job weaving together the various strands of the Kennedy Men. He covers a significant portion of the 20th century in his portrayal of this important family - the politics and every day occurences of J.P.'s life and that of his 4 sons. A must read for anyone looking for insights into this tumultuous era of the United States of America.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book. The language is superb. The details about personal life are so riveting.
kimikimi More than 1 year ago
Very well researched and detailed, all sources cited. Nonetheless, i came away feeling manipulated. It seemed to me the writer was cherry picking the details he wished to present. It is possible to be 100% accurate and still present a very one-sided view. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There were some places where the events were duplicated but it left me wondering how we ever survived the Kennedy men.
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I thought the book was totally engrossing and it was hard to put down. Whether you're a Kennedy fan or not, it is just a very interesting book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
an honest and documented book on the Kennndy family.. a must read for any person who loves history..just hope people read this... long book but well written.. might get lost in the suffle.. hope not