President and Chairman of the Board of Continental Bank in Chicago and Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon. Later he was appointed Ambassador-at-large and U.S. representative to NATO. He also served as special representative to the First Presidency of the Mormon Church. Diaries, correspondence, business and political records, reports, and miscellaneous items relating to Kennedy's banking and political assignments. In 1873, John Kennedy Jr. and his brother James left their home in Kilmarnock, Aryshire in Scotland, and sailed for America, with the dream of acquiring land and building a home. The Kennedy family had recently joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (L.D.S.) and wanted to settle in a community with fellow church members. This in mind, John and James Kennedy arrived in America. The two brothers worked until they earned sufficient money to purchase land near Randolph, a small L.D.S. community in North Central Utah. They were joined shortly after by the rest of the Kennedy family and soon became one of the most prominent families in Randolph.John Kennedy Jr., and his wife Hannah were well known and well liked through the community. John was known to be a hard working man of integrity. On December 7, 1874, Hannah gave birth to her seventh son George. George, following the example of his father, became a diligent worker and an honest and respected man. George and his new wife Katherine (Katie) Johnson worked on a ranch until they saved enough money that George and his brother-in-law were able to lease the ranch of Katie's father. On July 21, 1905, Katie gave birth to her fourth son, David Matthew.As a boy, David worked on the ranch with his father who taught him the value of hard work and service. Once while working together, George gave David some memorable counsel. He told his son: "I'll tell you what the purpose of life is. It's very simple. Then you won't have to worry about it. You think about it and that'll be it. Your purpose in life is to serve God and your fellowmen, period. That's it. That's all you have to remember." (Hickman, p. 27) David's life of service reflects that he did not merely remember his father's words of wisdom, he lived them.In his youth, David had many opportunities to serve, especially in his family. Besides working on the ranch with his father, he helped his arthritic mother with household duties. When David was 16, his mother traveled to Ogden, a larger town north of Randolph, to receive special treatment for her worsening arthritis. Since George needed the other boys to stay with him at the ranch, David stayed to care for his mother. This experience taught David some important lessons about patience and love that he would practice continually during his life. Katie instilled in her son a desire to gain an education, and to fulfill a mission for the L.D.S. Church. David was the only one of his brothers to serve a full time mission.David learned many principles of life and created many memories in his boyhood home of Randolph. The small town saw David's first fist fight. David's brother Karl rescued his badly out-matched little brother from the scuffle, and wisely advised him against fighting, telling David that he was a better talker than he was a fighter. His future would definitely be one of talking and peacemaking. Randolph was also the home of David's first business deal which he and his brother Karl struck with their father. The boys raised orphaned lambs from his father's herd, then sold and bred the sheep. It was not long before the young entrepreneur acquired a substantial herd. From childhood, David was ambitious and willing to work.In 1916, the Kennedy family moved to Ogden where Katie could receive better medical treatment and boys better educations. David and his brother Melvin soon found jobs working as bellhops in the Marion Hotel in Ogden. Within a year, David was promoted to desk clerk. He quickly developed great proficiency in writing and speaking and was often invited to speak at church meetings and special community celebrations.In 1919, David entered Weber Academy. Always active in his high school, David was a member of the debate team, the boxing team, and secretary-treasurer of the student body. Perhaps David's greatest accomplishment during his years at Weber Academy came through his service as editor of the school paper, theWeber Herald. David began selling ads to help fund the paper, which had been losing money. He was so successful that he soon was appointed Business Manager and received a 20% commission on the ads he sold. David enjoyed his years at the Academy and took full advantage of every opportunity to learn.By the age of twenty, David had fallen quite in love with Lenora Bingham, a lovely, energetic and intelligent girl from Ogden. In September of 1925, the young couple was engaged and planned to marry in November of the same year. While the prospect of marrying Lenora thrilled David, he still wondered about the mission call he had expected to receive. He found the answer when an unexpected twist was thrown into the wedding plans. David was called to serve a mission for the L.D.S. Church. Faced with the difficult decision, David and Lenora followed the counsel of their L.D.S. bishop, Murray K. Jacobs. The wedding plans continued and the two were married in November. The honeymoon was short lived. The following January, leaving his new wife to live with her parents in Ogden, David left home to serve a mission in Great Britain.In England, David found the people were frequently apathetic or even antagonistic toward the L.D.S. Church. He also contended with inclement weather and a variety of infirmities. In spite of this adversity, David excelled as a missionary. He served as president of the Liverpool District after having been in England less than one year. David was always an inspiration for the other missionaries and was instrumental in missionary success there.During his mission, David was privileged to serve under two outstanding mission presidents, James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe. Both men had an enduring impact on David's life. President Talmage instilled high standards of work in David. President Widtsoe broadened David's thought of education and encouraged him to consider attending George Washington University. With the added insight gained through counsel from his leaders and his own learning experiences, David returned home to the United States in February 1928, with a new determination to "get somewhere in life." (Hickman, p. 56)Upon his return, David entered Weber College. Shortly thereafter, his grandfather became ill and died. Consequently, David was given the opportunity to take over the Randolph Bank in which both of his grandfathers were major stockholders. David declined the offer in order to continue his pursuit of a law career. By 1929, David had decided that he and Lenora would move to Washington D.C. where, following the advice of President Widtsoe, he would attend George Washington University.In Washington, the cost of living was much higher than it had been in the West and David and Lenora met with financial strain. David began working for George Washington Stone Corporation but lost his job at the onset of the Depression. Undaunted by the setback, David sought work elsewhere and was soon hired by the Federal Reserve Board in the division of bank operations. It was this job that sparked in David an interest in economics and banking that would tremendously affect his future.As an undergraduate at George Washington University, David took several semesters of business and economic classes at Columbia College. He never gave up his goal of graduating from law school, however, and in September of 1931, he was accepted by the George Washington University Law School. David was a bright student and did well in his classes, in spite of working full time and taking care of the needs of his growing family. During David's third year of law school, he decided to take the Washington Bar exam. Although he would be tested on material that had not yet been covered at that point of his schooling, David was not deterred. He not only went ahead and took the exam he passed it. A year later, in 1935, David graduated from law school.After graduation, David decided to remain in Washington D.C. for a time. He and Lenora still entertained thoughts of returning to Utah, but low pay rates in the West kept them in Washington for the time being. Meanwhile, the David Kennedy family was growing with the birth of three new daughters: Barbara, Carol, and Marilyn. Another daughter, Patricia, came later. David took an active part in the care and upbringing of the children, as well as doing his share of household duties. Carol later told of David, "Father made each of us feel that we were his favorite. He didn't treat equally, he treated us uniquely." (Ensign, vol. 16, p. 43)David always served actively in church callings. After serving as counselor to Branch President Wallace Hales, David was called as bishop of the Capital Ward in 1944. As bishop, he dealt with such serious problems as prejudice among church members against blacks. He also faced raising funds for a financially troubled ward. David was a strong leader who allowed those around him to learn and gain experience. He made the statement that "the purpose of the church is to train people, not just have a well-oiled organization, running smoothly all the time." (Hickman, p. 80)Apart from his church activities, David Kennedy was beginning a career in banking as a clerk for the Director of Banking Operations in the Federal Reserve. He started by researching passed and proposed bank mergers. This information would prove very valuable during the banking crisis of 1933. It was during this time that David began considering banking an alternative to law. In the summer of 1936, he applied and was accepted into the Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University in New Jersey. David graduated June 30, 1939, with a major in banking and a minor in trusts.In 1936, David was transferred within the Federal Reserve to the division of Research, and Statistics as an associate economist. At the end of 1937, David received the title of technical assistant and a pay increase. Another promotion came in 1942 when David was made assistant chief of Government Securities Section. In 1943, David became administrative assistant to Marriner Eccles, the head of the Federal Reserve.Although David enjoyed work on the Federal Reserve, he still longed to move west. The long awaited opportunity came in the early part of 1946 when an offer came from Francis M. "Hank" Knight, a vice president at Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago. David accepted the offer from Continental, and in October of 1946 left the Federal Reserve Board.David came to Continental Bank without having a formal title or position but soon began working with Walter Cummings, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Continental. In this self-created position, David helped plan a post-war financial stabilization strategy. He also made many important decisions. At one time, David's sound thinking saved the bank several million dollars. Maneuvers of this type demonstrated David's intelligence and ability to make quick, sound decisions and brought him to the attention of National Secretary of Treasury George Humphrey. Humphrey asked Kennedy to come to Washington to work as a specialist in debt management with Randolph Burgess, Under Secretary of Monetary Affairs.David was somewhat reluctant to accept the position at Washington. Hank Knight assured him that the experience he gained in Washington would later be useful at Continental. David was also encouraged by Chicago Stake President, John K. Edmunds, for whom Kennedy currently served as counselor. President Edmunds urged David to go to Washington but at the same time denied David's request to be released from his calling as counselor in the Stake Presidency. President Edmunds told church authorities that "he would rather have Kennedy as a part-time counselor than some else full time." (Hickman, p. 114) In October of 1953, David agreed to go to Washington to one year.The new position held many challenges for David. In the fall of 1953, the Treasury Department under President Eisenhower was striving to achieve economic stability under a deficit of $9 billion, and a national debt of $276 billion. The exorbitant sum was due primarily to the aftermath of WWII and the Korean conflict. David's efforts and insightful ideas were responsible for many important changes which promoted new growth and stability in the Nation's economy.After fourteen months with the treasury Department, David received many inviting offers for positions in New York banks that had seen David's remarkable financial ability. As David debated whether to accept an offer from New York, Carl Birdsall, the President of Continental Bank came to Washington and confided to David that the bank was losing ground. With the assurance of being able to take a more active role in forming bank policies, David returned to Chicago. By April 1955, David had become one of he Vice Presidents at Continental. David did not hold this position for long. In November of 1956, when Continental Bank President Carl Birdsall unexpectedly died, Chairman Walter Cummings offered the position to David. Dave accepted.As president of the bank, David began using his own style in the office. He made himself more visible to other bank employees. He decentralized bank authority and began delegating many responsibilities to other officers. These changes improved the efficiency of the administration as well as increasing office morale. In 1959, David was appointed Chairman of the Board. He implemented new retirement plans and was thereby eventually able to appoint new members to the board.The only competition for Continental Bank came from First National Bank of Chicago. The two banks, in a race to be Chicago's top bank, had both proposed a merger with City National Bank. After a heated race with First National, City Bank agreed to accept Continental's bid and the two banks merged, making Continental the number one bank in Chicago.David's next goal for Continental Bank was expansion. He realized that since the United States was expanding in foreign trade, Continental must also expand internationally in order to meet the needs businessmen had in their dealings abroad. David did not think of international expansion merely as a means of financial benefit; he foresaw a fulfillment of even greater needs of encouraging world peace and aiding the development of third world countries. David thought of Continental's expansion abroad as "contributing to interdependence of nations, and that interdependence, in the long run, would benefit all nations, rich and poor." (Hickman, p. 159)Kennedy proceeded to open branches of Continental Bank throughout the world, beginning with the opening of a branch in London on March 1, 1962. In 1964, following tough negotiations, two additional branches opened in Tokyo and Osaka. The opening of a second branch in London followed, and the establishing of a representative office in Switzerland. In that same year, David made investments in affiliated banks in Holland, Ecuador, Morocco, Switzerland the Bahamas. Further expansion into France and Germany occurred in 1968. During this time of international extension, Kennedy did not neglect the expanse of Continental Bank at home. Subsidiaries of Continental were established in Chicago (Continental International Finance Corporation) and New York (Continental International Banking Corporation).The process of expansion provided David with the opportunity to meet with many important foreign diplomats and people of power. His intelligence and integrity were well recognized throughout the world. One example of David's international importance occurred when, in 1967, his trip to Morocco was interrupted by President Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The president spent three hours with David discussing United States and Egypt relations which had deteriorated during the 1956 Suez Crises. Upon his return to the U.S., David told Dean Rusk that war between Egypt and Israel was imminent. Rusk disagreed with David's prophecy. In one month the two countries were at war with each other.In spite of his world travels and foreign affairs, David was always a faithful servant of the Chicago community. Mayor Richard J. Daley, Chicago's "political boss" appointed David to chair the Mayor's Committee for Economic and Cultural Development. David also served on the Boards of Trustees for the University of Chicago, the Washington-based Brookings Institute, and the Presbyterian-St. Luke Hospital in Chicago, and he was active in the American Bankers Association. He also headed various fund raising drives for Chicago's Catholic-Mercy Hospital.In 1966, N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked David to take charge of a major fund-raising drive for Brigham Young University. Over $27 million was raised. David served on national advisory committees as well, including the Federal Advisory Council for the Radio Free Europe Fund. Lyndon B. Johnson requested that David chair a presentation of the federal budget. The recommendations of his committee changed the way the federal budget is reported today.A new opportunity came for David December 4, 1968, when he met with then president-elect Richard Nixon who offered David the position of Secretary of the Treasury. David, however, after much consideration, advised Nixon that due to his poor health (David suffered from bleeding ulcers) he would decline the offer unless the President insist that he take it. President Nixon did not relent and David accepted the position. In December, the cabinet appointments were, for the first time, announced on public television. The official inauguration followed on January 20, 1969.As Secretary of the Treasury, David dealt with such controversial issues as tax reforms and the extension of a 10% surcharge on personal and corporate income tax rates. He heavily opposed the radical welfare reforms proposal of the Family Security System (FSS) which would provide a minimum income for families with dependant children headed by a father and mother. David opposed the proposal, arguing that it was too expensive and was too much like a guaranteed wage. The proposal was defeated in the Senate. Faced with the persistent danger of inflation, Kennedy was against any new programs being introduced until the budget was balanced. After a year and a half of dedicated service in the face of continual political opposition, David resigned from his position as Secretary of the Treasury.Nixon knew enough not to let a man as valuable as David Kennedy go, and asked him to serve as Ambassador-at-large specializing in international economic issues. David played a role in many important negotiations with foreign nations, including a hard reached textile agreement with Japan and other countries of the Far East. In the fall of 1971, President Nixon asked Kennedy to become the United States' permanent representative on the NATO Council. David agreed to accept the position only if he could retain his position as Ambassador-at-large. In spite of objections from the State Department, an agreement was reached. David was an invaluable help to the United States as a representative to NATO. After much strenuous work and faithful service to the government, David submitted his resignation to President Nixon in November 1972.Following his resignation, David returned to Chicago. Although a private citizen, his life was anything but sedentary. He continued to be fully active in the church and in the community. David was a founder and chairman of the USA-Republic of China Economic Council which was established to encourage good will between Taiwan and the U.S. The ROC later awarded David "the Order of Brilliant Star," an honor similar to knighthood. David also became an honorary member of the fifty largest banks in the U.S. (Hickman, p. 334)David was unaware that a new assignment awaited him when he went to visit his daughter in Utah in 1974. During his visit, N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency of the L.D.S. Church, asked to meet with David. Acting under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Tanner asked David if he would serve as Representative to the First Presidency in: (1) helping the church to be recognized in countries where no L.D.S. missionaries were serving; (2) helping solve visa and similar problems in countries in which the church was already established; and (3) dealing with government agencies in Washington. Naturally, David gratefully accepted the assignment.Expanding missionary work was a priority for President Kimball, and so it became a priority to David. Under the direction of President Kimball, David began visiting those countries where recognition of the L.D.S. Church had not been sought or where there were difficulties in obtaining recognition. In each country, David would seek an audience with a dignitary as close to the top of the governmental hierarchy as possible. Frequently, David would meet first with a country's minister of finance since he usually knew them personally. He would then ask for an introduction to a higher official.David's first year of his new assignment took him to Lebanon, Greece, Portugal, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, the Phillippines, Hungary, Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Iran and Egypt. He played a key role in opening the doors of missionary work to Portugal. He even succeeded in influencing the Portugal Minister of Justice to propose a statute to the parliament ensuring religious freedom in that country.David was always alert for opportunities to be a missionary himself and spread the gospel. He often would invite foreign dignitaries to visit Salt Lake City and the beautiful Temple Square. Ambassadors from Greece, GDR, Turkey, Egypt, and even the Queen of Thailand were among those who came to see the sights of Utah at David's request.David's assignments were many. He often accompanied President Kimball to Area Conferences to introduce him to foreign leaders. David also briefed mission presidents going to sensitive areas as to the country's culture, customs and histories. He was occasionally asked to review talks given by General Authorities to the Church under certain circumstances. One such instance was the dedication of the Orson Hyde Park in Jerusalem. The speakers had to take particular care not to offend either the Muslims or the Jews. David's experience was an invaluable asset to the Church and its expansion into foreign nations. David firmly believes "that to be successful, diplomats cannot be short timers; they must have time to build contacts, cement relationships, and develop a keen understanding of the cultural patterns of their assigned areas." (Hickman, p. 364) David surely practiced this philosophy of diplomacy. At the inaugural dinner November, 1983, for the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University, named in honor of David Kennedy, Gordon B. Hinckly said in a speech that "everyone seems to know David Kennedy. He. . . is a citizen of the world who seems to enjoy a first-name acquaintance with men and women of great consequence in their respected lands." (Ensign, p. 42) On March 31, 1990, David was honorably released from his calling as Special Representative to the First Presidency.Throughout David's adult life he diligently fulfilled tedious assignments in government and the community. He never neglected his church callings. He served for 15 years as counselor to President John K. Edmunds of the stake presidency in the Chicago Stake. president Edmunds said of David "He was good counselor who always supported me." (Ensign, p. 44) The church was always first in David's life. Whether in the capacity of bishop, counselor in the stake presidency, or representative to the First Presidency of the Church, David's service was tireless. Paul Jesperson, David's former fellow-counselor in the Stake Presidency in Chicago commented that David was a man of "quiet wisdom who was very close to the Lord. The gospel was always first in his life, and despite his wealth and accomplishments, he was always humble, never belittling anyone." (Ensign, p. 44)Since David was a very young man he has served others. Remembering always his father's counsel of long ago, he was and is a faithful service of God and his fellow man.Much of the above information was taken from Martin Hickman, David Matthew Kennedy: Banker, Stateman, Churchman(Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.) See also, M. Dallas Burnett, "David M. Kennedy: Ambassador for the Kingdom,""Ensign16, June 1986.
This collection is currently restricted from general use. Permission to research any material in it must be obtained from the curator of 20th Century Western and Mormon Americana, Special Collections & Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.Permission to publish material from David M. Kennedy Collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
In order to set up a list of libraries that you have access to,
you must first login
or sign up.
Then set up a personal list of libraries from your profile page by
clicking on your user name at the top right of any screen.