Kennedy, James Drake, Jr. Founder Of Kenco, Decorated World War II Veteran, Civic Leader

James Drake Kennedy, Jr. was born on November 11, 1924, in Chattanooga, and died on February 4, 2020, at the age of 95 in his home on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

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, Elizabeth Kennedy Spratlin, (Tyler) Atlanta, 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.

He went to Bright School, Baylor School, and Dartmouth College.

His military service included squad leader, combat infantry, Company C 116 Infantry Division. He landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France late June 1944. He was wounded in St. Lo, France and Aachen, Germany. He was 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 for American National Bank from 1948 to 1950, Cherokee Warehouses, Inc., as secretary treasurer, from 1950 to 1984, chairman of Cherokee Warehouse, from 1984 to 1990, chairman of Kenco Group, from 1990 to 2002, Kenco Group, chairman emeritus, from 2002 to present.

He was affiliated with the following industry/business associations: executive board of American National Bank and Trust (Suntrust), chairman of Southeast Warehouse Association, chairman American Warehouse Association, chosen as a member of the UTC Business School, and was named to the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.

His civic involvement included campaign chairman and president of United Way of Chattanooga, campaign chairman and president of Allied Arts of Chattanooga, chairman of the Hunter Museum of American Art, chairman University of Chattanooga Foundation, served as commissioner of Fire and Police and Treasurer for The Town of Lookout Mountain, Tn., president of Chattanooga Rotary Club, board member of The Lookout Mountain Elementary School and The Girls Preparatory School, chairman of the Chattanooga Red Cross, board member of the  Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kennedy, Jr. was a life-long member of the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain and served on the vestry for many years.

Kennedy, Jr. 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 today a major full service logistics business, KENCO, Inc., employing several thousand people in Chattanooga and across the country.

Kennedy, Jr. was a pioneer in what he called Contract Warehousing . At a time when most of his competitors in the “public warehouse“ business  conned themselves to small local operations Kennedy, Jr. and his  great team of hard working, loyal associates at Kenco, Cherokee’s new name, began something very different. 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 floor” and appreciated all they did. Kenco was in fact one of the first companies that could truly be called a third party logistics provider.

Kennedy, Jr. 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.

His involvement in local civic organizations was never ending and demonstrate his love for Chattanooga and its people. 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 beloved 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 Litchfield Beach, SC with friends and family. Kennedy Jr was a great leader in his community, a wonderful father and a very giving man. His family and friends will always miss him. His was more than a “slice of life.”

The family wants to thank Gail Caylor for her never ending attention, friendship and loyalty she gave to Dad for over the last 11 years. Words cannot express our gratitude.  We want to also thank another caregiver, Irene McGuire, for her special attention to Dad.  We greatly appreciate Tammy Selvidge and all she’s done for Dad as Dad had always said “she is my right hand.” Finally, we want to thank Jessica Nobles and her staff at Nobility Home Solutions for their professional care and kindness to Dad for over a year and Avalon Hospice for their exceptional assistance in the medical needs for the comfort of Dad in the last days of his life.

Visit to share condolences with the family.

In lieu of flowers, please send a memorial donation to your charity of choice or to Erlanger Health System Foundation (Children’s Hospital) 975 E. Third Street, Chattanooga, Tn. 37403.

The graveside service is planned for Sunday, Feb. 9, 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 officiate the service.

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


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