Jim Kennedy Jr., Founder Of Kenco, Decorated World War II Veteran, Civic Leader, Dies At 95

Wednesday, February 5, 2020
James Kennedy Jr.
James Kennedy Jr.

Jim Kennedy Jr., founder of Kenco and a Chattanooga civic leader, has died at 95.

Mr. Kennedy was born November 11, 1924 in Chattanooga and died on Tuesday at his home at Lookout Mountain, Tn.

He studied at Bright School, Baylor School and Dartmouth College.

Mr. Kennedy was a squad leader, Combat Infantry, Company C 116 Infantry Division, during World War II. He landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France late June 1944. He was wounded in St Lo, France and Aachen, Germany. Awarded Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, European Campaign Ribbon with three bronze stars, Combat Infantry Badge, and two Bronze Stars For Heroic or meritorious Service in Combat

He worked at American National Bank from 1948 to 1950, then was secretary/treasurer of Cherokee Warehouse from 1950 to 1984.

He was chairman of Cherokee Warehouse until 1990. He was chairman of the Kenco Group from 1990 until 2002 and was chairman emeritus until his death.

Mr. Kennedy founded Cherokee Warehouse on Aug. 1, 1950 with his brother in law, Sam Smartt and father, James Drake Kennedy, Sr who provided the capital to start the business. The two young men, Kennedy Jr. and Smartt were the only employees and they set about trying to make a living with very little capital, but a lot of desire. The result is today a major full service logistics business, Kenco, Inc employing several thousand people in Chattanooga and across the country.

Mr. Kennedy Jr. was a pioneer in what he called contract warehousing . At a time when most of his competitors in the “public warehouse“ business  con?ned themselves to small local operations Kennedy Jr. and his team of associates at Kenco, Cherokee’s new name, began something very di?erent. They developed relationships with Fortune 500 companies across the country operating large distribution centers providing modern day logistics services. He was dedicated to “the man or woman on the ?oor” and appreciated all they did. Kenco was, in fact, one of the ?rst companies that could truly be called a third party logistics provider.

Kennedy Jr. also started Chattanooga Disposal, one of the ?rst commercial waste disposal companies in the area which he ultimately sold to Browning Ferris Industries. He also started Kenco Toyota Lift, which is now a large multi-state provider of materials handling equipment and service.

For several years he was the auctioneer for The Hunter Museum’s annual Spectrum auction. In 1995 he was recognized as “The Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year”. Recently through his Kennedy Foundation he made the largest gift to the campaign for what is now The Children’s Kennedy Outpatient Center  at Erlanger. In his seventies Kennedy Jr. went back to college and took two years of study in English literature and Fine Arts at UTC. This experience led him to donate funds though the Foundation to the annual Kennedy Shakespeare Lecture and he has established a poetry scholarship and professorship at UTC in honor of his late wife, Dorothy Hellerstedt Kennedy.

Kennedy Jr. loved to work crossword puzzles and the daily Jumbles, priding himself in the ability to complete the puzzle without a pencil even when he turned 95. He always enjoyed spending time at Litch?eld Beach, S.C. with friends and family.               

Kennedy Jr. was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Dorothy Hellerstedt Kennedy, his father James Drake Kennedy, Sr, mother, Jesse McKenzie Kennedy and sister, Mary Kathryn Kennedy McQuiddy.

He leaves behind his son, James Drake Kennedy, III, (Kathleen) Alexander City, AL, and daughters, Jane Kennedy Greene, (Greg) Dallas, TX, Elizabeth Kennedy Spratlin, (Tyler) Atlanta, GA, Molly Kathryn Kennedy, Chattanooga,TN, and nine grandchildren, Gregory Greene, Jr (Lillian), Landon Greene Jackson (Tyler), Drake Greene, Liza Spratlin, Kate Spratlin, Dorothy Spratlin, James Kennedy (Betsie), Elizabeth Kennedy Lucia (Ryan) and Will Kennedy and three great grandchildren, Eleanor Greene, Louisa Greene, and Genevieve Dougherty.

The graveside service is planned for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Forest Hills Cemetery and afterwards “the celebration of life” will be held at the Lookout Mountain Golf Club, 1730 Wood Nymph Trail, Lookout Mountain, Ga. Reverend Robert Childers of The Church of the Good Shepherd will o?ciate the service.

Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home & Crematory, Battlefield Parkway.


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