James Drake Kennedy Jr., one of the founders of what grew into one of the largest privately owned warehouse and logistics companies in America, died Tuesday at his home on Lookout Mountain. He was 95.
Kennedy, an Army veteran who landed on Omaha Beach in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze stars for heroic service in combat, started Cherokee Warehouses with his brother-in-law Sam Smartt in 1950 after he worked a couple of years at the former American National Bank.
Kennedy and Smartt built Cherokee Warehouses, later renamed to Kenco Group in 1967, into a nationwide company which today has more than 30 million square feet of warehouse space and over 5,000 employees.
While building the family-owned logistics business, Kennedy was an active civic and business leader, serving as chairman of the American Warehouse Association, the Hunter Museum of Art, the University of Chattanooga Foundation and Chattanooga Red Cross. Kennedy also served in the past as president of Allied Arts of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Rotary Club, along with being a commissioner of fire and police for the town of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., and a board member for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Lookout Mountain Elementary School and Girls Preparatory School.
Through his Kennedy Foundation, he made the largest gift to the campaign by Erlanger hospital for what is now The Children's Kennedy Outpatient Center at Erlanger.
Kennedy also was a lifelong member of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain and served on the vestry for many years.
Kennedy was inducted into the UTC Business School Entrepreneur Hall of Fame in 2002 and was selected as Chattanooga Manager of the Year in 1995.
According to an obituary about Kennedy's life prepared by Heritage Funeral Home, Kennedy was a pioneer in contract warehousing, building storage and distribution facilities for major companies. Kenco developed as one of the first third-party logistics providers in the country.
Kennedy also started Chattanooga Disposal, one of the first 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.
Kennedy 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, Alabama; and daughters, Jane Kennedy Greene, (Greg) Dallas, Texas, Elizabeth Kennedy Spratlin, (Tyler) Atlanta, and Molly Kathryn Kennedy, Chattanooga; 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, Feb. 9, 2020, 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 in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Rev. Robert Childers of The Church of the Good Shepherd will officiate at the service.
Arrangements are being handled by Heritage Funeral Home & Crematory on Battlefield Parkway.