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Joseph Kennedy, SJ Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS77

Scope and contents note

The Joseph Kennedy, S.J. papers is a small collection of miscellaneous correspondence received by Fr. Kennedy along with some biographical data and miscellaneous articles and printed matter that interested him. The primary interest of the collection is the information accumulated by Fr. Kennedy on the case of Susan Decatur, wife of the famous naval commodore, Stephen Decatur, Jr. The latter lost his life in a duel with Commodore James Barron in Bladensburg, Maryland in March 1820. After his death, Susan Decatur attempted unsuccessfully to claim compensation for her husband's participation in the burning of the ship, "The Philadelphia," on February 16, 1804. This began many years of legal dispute, and the claim was still before Congress in 1860 when Susan Decatur died.

Included in this collection is a lengthy study on the subject by Dennis G. Terez entitled, "The Long and Involved Claim of Susan Decatur" (1984) [see Folder 1:4]. In addition, Fr. Kennedy took copious notes on the case [see Folder 1:5].


  • 1912 - 1984
  • Majority of material found within 1980 - 1984

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

The Reverend Joseph F. Kennedy, S.J. was born April 18, 1912. He received his early education at Gonzaga College in Washington, D.C. (from 1926-1930). Fr. Kennedy received licentiates in philosophy and theology from Woodstock College, Maryland, in 1937 and 1942, respectively. He also held a Master of Arts in History from Georgetown University (1939), and was a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University (1946-1950). He was unable to complete the latter degree because of an eye ailment.

On September 14, 1930 Fr. Kennedy entered the order of the Society of Jesus and was ordained on June 20, 1943. He took his final vows on February 2, 1948.

From 1950 through 1955, Fr. Kennedy taught history at St. Joseph's College, Philadelphia; and from 1955 through 1974, he taught at Wheeling College in Wheeling, West Virginia. From 1975 until 1980 he became associate pastor at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Baltimore, Maryland. Here he ministered to a parish of about thirteen thousand and headed a senior citizens' program.

During his teaching years, Fr. Kennedy had the opportunity to travel and teach abroad at Cagayan University in the Philippines (1963-1964), and at Sophia University in Tokyo (1970-1971).

In addition to his academic and pastoral duties, Fr. Kennedy also participated in various social welfare organizations such as the House of Ruth in Washington, D.C., which he helped found, as well as the Covenant House for runaway youth in New York City.

In 1980, Fr. Kennedy decided to leave parish life and return to academics. In his 1980 resume he states, "After five years in a large suburban parish with about 13,000 middle-class people and no ethnic minorities, I have decided to return, if possible, to a college academic environment." Indeed, Fr. Kennedy did retire to Georgetown University, where he worked for some time at the university archives.

He died on January 28, 1983, Washington, D.C.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Joseph Kennedy, SJ Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057