John E. Kenna

John E. Kenna
United States Senator
from West Virginia
In office
March 4, 1883  January 11, 1893
Preceded by Henry G. Davis
Succeeded by Johnson N. Camden
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1877  March 3, 1883
Preceded by Frank Hereford
Succeeded by Charles P. Snyder
Personal details
Born (1848-04-10)April 10, 1848
St. Albans, West Virginia
Died January 11, 1893(1893-01-11) (aged 44)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic

John Edward Kenna (April 10, 1848  January 11, 1893) was an American politician who was a Senator from West Virginia from 1883 until his death.


Kenna was born near St. Albans, West Virginia, in Kanawha County and lived his early life at Upper Falls, where his father was lockmaster and owned a sawmill.[1] He had little education, and at the age of 16 he served in the "Iron Brigade" with General Joseph O. Shelby in the Confederate States Army and was wounded. After returning home, he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1870. He became very active in the emerging Democratic Party of West Virginia.

He rose from prosecuting attorney of Kanawha County in 1872 to Justice pro tempore of the county circuit in 1875, and to the United States House of Representatives in 1876. While in the House he championed railroad legislation and crusaded for aid for slack-water navigation to help the coal, timber, and salt industries in his state. These activities earned him a seat in the United States Senate in 1883, where he continued fighting for his two causes.

Kenna became Democratic minority leader and emerged as a powerful and controversial speaker on the issue of the independence of the executive branch of the government. He forcefully defended President Grover Cleveland on several issues and indicted the Senate Republican majority for failure to pass tariff reforms. His brilliant career was cut short with his sudden death at the age of 44 on January 11, 1893.

Kenna is the namesake of the town of Kenna, West Virginia.[2] In 1901, the state of West Virginia donated a marble statue of Kenna to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.


  1. Courtesy of Dr. William H. Dean, Ph.D. From Coal, Steamboats, Timber and Trains: The Early Industrial History of St. Albans, West Virginia & The Coal River, 1850-1925.
  2. Kenny, Hamill (1945). West Virginia Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning, Including the Nomenclature of the Streams and Mountains. Piedmont, WV: The Place Name Press. p. 346.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Edward Kenna.
Wikisource has original works written by or about:
John Edward Kenna
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank Hereford
U.S. Representative of West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District
Succeeded by
Charles P. Snyder
United States Senate
Preceded by
Henry G. Davis
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from West Virginia
Served alongside: Johnson N. Camden, Charles J. Faulkner
Succeeded by
Johnson N. Camden
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.