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For the American author John Fitzgerald, see John D. Fitzgerald. For others, see John Fitzgerald

John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (February 11, 1863 – October 2, 1950) was an Irish-American politician and the namesake and maternal grandfather of US President John F. Kennedy, and United States Senators Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy.

Early life and family

Fitzgerald was born in Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker, the son of Irish immigrants, Thomas Fitzgerald of County Limerickmarker and Rosanna Cox of County Cavanmarker. He was the fourth of twelve children; of his siblings, both sisters died in infancy, as did his eldest brother. Joseph, the ninth brother, had severe brain damage from malaria and barely functioned. Only three survived in good health and after John's mother died when he was sixteen, his father wished for him to become a doctor to help prevent future tragedies of the sort that had marred the Fitzgerald family.

Accordingly, after being educated at Boston Latin Schoolmarker, he enrolled at Harvard Medical Schoolmarker for one year, but withdrew following the death of his father in 1885. Fitzgerald later became a clerk at the Customs House in Boston and was active in the local Democratic Party.

Fitzgerald was a member of the Royal Rooters, an early supporters' club for Boston's baseball teams, particularly its American League team, the modern Boston Red Sox. At one point, he was the group's chairman, and threw out the ceremonial opening pitch in Fenway Park's inaugural game, as well as in the 1912 World Series later that year.


On September 18, 1889, Fitzgerald married Mary Josephine Hannon, his second cousin.


Name Birth Death Age Notes
Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald July 22, 1890 January 22, 1995 104 years Married on October 7, 1914 to Joseph P. Kennedy; had issue.
Mary Agnes Fitzgerald November 1, 1892 September 17, 1936 43 years Married on April 29, 1929 to Joseph F. Gargan; had issue.
Thomas Acton Fitzgerald April 19, 1895 September 1968 73 years Married on September 7, 1921 to Marion D. Reardon (died February 7, 1925); had issue. Married again on October 11, 1930 to Margaret Bernice Fitzpatrick; had issue.
John Francis Fitzgerald Jr December 7, 1897 April 1979 81 years Married on April 28, 1928 to Catherine O'Hearn; had issue.
Eunice Fitzgerald January 26, 1900 September 25, 1923 23 years
Frederick Hannon Fitzgerald December 3, 1904 February 1935 30 years Married on October 26, 1929 to Rosalind Miller.

Political life

John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald with son-in-law Joseph P.
Kennedy Sr. and grandson John F. Kennedy.
He was elected to Boston's Common Council in 1891. In 1892, he became a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and in 1894, he was elected to Congress for the 9th district, serving from 1895 to 1901. In 1906, Fitzgerald was elected Mayor of Boston, becoming the first American-born Irish-Catholic to be elected to that office. Fitzgerald served as mayor of Boston from 1906 to 1908, was defeated for re-election, but returned to the office again from 1910 to 1914.

Of his stylish manner, Robert Dallek wrote: "He was a natural politician—a charming, impish, affable lover of people... . His warmth of character earned him yet another nickname, "Honey Fitz," and he gained a reputation as the only politician who could sing "Sweet Adeline" sober and get away with it. A pixie-like character with florid face, bright eyes, and sandy hair, he was a showman who could have had a career in vaudeville. But politics, with all the brokering that went into arranging alliances and the hoopla that went into campaigning, was his calling. A verse of the day ran: 'Honey Fitz can talk you blind / on any subject you can find / Fish and fishing, motor boats / Railroads, streetcars, getting votes.' His gift of gab became known as Fitzblarney, and his followers as "dearos," a shortened version of his description of his district as 'the dear old North End.'"

He was for years the most prominent political figure in the city of Boston, where Patrick J. Kennedy was a more behind-the-scenes Democratic Party figure. P.J. Kennedy opposed Fitzgerald when the latter first ran for mayor, but they later became allies. In 1914, these two powerful political families (Kennedy and Fitzgerald) were united when Patrick Kennedy's only son Joe married Fitzgerald's eldest daughter Rose.

From March 4, 1919 to October 23, 1919, he again served in Congress, now for the 10th district, until Peter F. Tague successfully contested the election. Fitzgerald was an unsuccessful candidate for the offices of Senator in 1916 and Governor in 1922. His opponent for the Senate was Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr.In his later years, Fitzgerald focused on his business interests and on honing the political instincts of his daughter Rose's promising sons. In 1946, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy decided to run for Congress, 85-year-old "Honey Fitz" helped him plan his campaign strategy. At the victory celebration, Fitzgerald danced an Irish jig, sang "Sweet Adeline," and predicted that his grandson would someday occupy the White House. Shortly after his election, John F. Kennedy renamed the presidential yacht the Honey Fitz in honor of his maternal grandfather.

On October 2, 1950, John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald died in Boston at the age of eighty-seven. His funeral was one of the largest in the city's history. President Harry S. Truman sent his sympathies and Fitzgerald's pallbearers included U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall (the grandson of the man who had given "Honey Fitz" his first job), U.S. Speaker of the House John McCormack, Massachusetts Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, and former Boston Mayor and Massachusetts Governor James Michael Curley. As "Honey Fitz" was carried to his final rest from Holy Cross Cathedral to St. Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury, MA, a crowd of thousands who had gathered along the streets sang "Sweet Adeline". Interestingly, in 1952, Fitzgerald's grandson and namesake John Fitzgerald Kennedy defeated Lodge's grandson and namesake Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. for the same seat. Furthermore, in 1960, Lodge, Jr. was the unsuccessful U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, which lost to Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

The official name for the Central Arterymarker highway in Boston was The John F. Fitzgerald Expressway, until it was torn down in the 1990s as part of Boston's "Big Digmarker" project which eliminated the Central Artery and replaced it with a tunnel. The resulting greenway above the tunnel where the expressway had been was named for Fitzgerald's daughter as the "Rose Kennedy Greenway".


  1. McGoldrick, Monica. You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting with Your Family, p. 155. W. W. Norton & Company, 1995, ISBN 0393316505.
  2. Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2001). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. Simon and Schuster. pp.88-89.

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