John F. Fitzgerald

John F. Fitzgerald
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1919  October 23, 1919
Preceded by Peter Francis Tague
Succeeded by Peter Francis Tague
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1895  March 3, 1901
Preceded by Joseph H. O'Neil
Succeeded by Joseph A. Conry
38th and 40th Mayor of Boston
In office
Preceded by Daniel A. Whelton
Succeeded by George A. Hibbard
In office
Preceded by George A. Hibbard
Succeeded by James Michael Curley
Member of the Massachusetts Senate
from the 3rd Suffolk district
In office
Boston Common Council
Ward 6
In office
Personal details
Born John Francis Fitzgerald
(1863-02-11)February 11, 1863
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 2, 1950(1950-10-02) (aged 87)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting place St. Joseph Cemetery
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Josephine Hannon
(m. 1889–1950; his death)
  • Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald
  • Mary Agnes Fitzgerald
  • Thomas Acton Fitzgerald
  • John Francis Fitzgerald, Jr.
  • Eunice Fitzgerald
  • Frederick Hannon Fitzgerald
Parents Thomas Fitzgerald
Rosanna Cox
Alma mater Boston Latin School
Boston College
Harvard Medical School
Religion Catholicism

John Francis "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (February 11, 1863 – October 2, 1950) was an American politician, father of Rose Kennedy and maternal grandfather of President John F. Kennedy.

Fitzgerald was a Democratic congressman who went on to win two terms as mayor of Boston. He made major improvements to the port, and became a patron of the baseball team now known as the Boston Red Sox. He maintained a high profile in the city, with his theatrical style of campaigning, and his personal charm and charisma that earned him the nickname 'Honey Fitz'. His daughter Rose married Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the son of his political rival P. J. Kennedy. In old age, Fitzgerald helped his grandson John F. Kennedy to win his first seat in congress.

Early life and family

John Francis Fitzgerald was born in Boston to Irish businessman/politician Thomas Fitzgerald (1830–1913) of Bruff, County Limerick, and Rosanna Cox (1833–1923) of County Cavan. He was the fourth of twelve children. Both of his sisters, Ellen and Mary, and his eldest brother, Michael, died in infancy. Fitzgerald's brother Joseph had severe brain damage from malaria and barely functioned. Only three of the children survived in good health. Fitzgerald'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 School and Boston College,[1][2] he enrolled at Harvard Medical School for one year, but withdrew following the death of his father in 1885.[3] 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 (April 20, 1912), as well as in the 1912 World Series later that year. His great-granddaughter Caroline Kennedy threw out the first pitch for Fenway Park's 100th anniversary on April 20, 2012.[4]

Political career

Fitzgerald 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.[5] 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.'"[6]

Early in his first term as Boston's mayor, Fitzgerald formulated a plan to revitalize the commercial importance of the city. Using the slogan "A bigger, busier and better Boston", Fitzgerald was able to persuade business and the Massachusetts legislature to invest $9 million for improvements to the port by 1912. Within a year, the investments began to pay off in the form of new port traffic to and from Europe.[7]

The "Bigger, Busier and Better Boston" campaign, 1907.

He was for years the most prominent political figure in the city of Boston, where Patrick Joseph "P. J." Kennedy was a more behind-the-scenes Democratic Party figure. P. J. opposed Honey Fitz 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 P. J.'s elder 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. In 1942, he ran a quixotic campaign for the U.S. Senate, and lost the Democratic primary to Congressman Joseph E. Casey.

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 "Jack" Kennedy decided to run for Congress, 83-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 to the presidency, President Kennedy renamed the presidential yacht the Honey Fitz in honor of his maternal grandfather.

Personal life

On September 18, 1889, Fitzgerald married his second cousin Mary Josephine "Josie" Hannon (October 31, 1865 – August 8, 1964). She was a daughter of Michael Hannon (1832–1900) and Mary Ann Fitzgerald (1834–1904).[8]


Rose Elizabeth FitzgeraldJuly 22, 1890January 22, 1995104 yearsMarried on October 7, 1914, to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr.; had nine children: Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rose Marie Kennedy, Kathleen Agnes Kennedy, Eunice Mary Kennedy, Patricia Helen Kennedy, Robert Francis Kennedy, Jean Ann Kennedy, and Edward Moore Kennedy.
Mary Agnes FitzgeraldNovember 1, 1892September 17, 193643 yearsMarried on April 29, 1929, to Joseph F. Gargan, Sr.; had three children: Joseph F. Gargan, Jr. and two younger daughters, Mary Jo Gargan and Ann Gargan.
Thomas Acton FitzgeraldApril 19, 1895September 196873 yearsMarried on September 7, 1921, to Marion D. Reardon (died February 7, 1925); had one daughter: Marion Eunice Fitzgerald. Married again on October 11, 1930, to Margaret Bernice Fitzpatrick; had two children: Barbara Ann Fitzgerald and Thomas Acton Fitzgerald, Jr..
John Francis Fitzgerald, Jr.December 7, 1897April 197981 yearsMarried on April 28, 1928, to Catherine O'Hearn; had three sons: John Francis Fitzgerald III, Robert P. Fitzgerald, and Fred Fitzgerald.
Eunice FitzgeraldJanuary 26, 1900September 25, 192323 yearsNever married.[9]
Frederick Hannon FitzgeraldDecember 3, 1904February 193530 yearsMarried on October 26, 1929, to Rosalind Miller; had one son: Frederick Hannon Fitzgerald, Jr..


On October 2, 1950, 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 II, U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall (the grandson of the man who had given "Honey Fitz" his first job), future U.S. Speaker of the House John McCormack, Massachusetts Speaker of the House Thomas Phillip O'Neill, Jr., 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 Cemetery in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, a crowd of thousands who had gathered along the streets sang "Sweet Adeline".


The official name for the Central Artery highway in Boston was "The John F. Fitzgerald Expressway," until it was torn down in the 1990s as part of Boston's "Big Dig" 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 Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway".

See also


  1. "An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy Excerpt".
  2. "Full text of "Letters and speeches of the Honorable John F. Fitzgerald : mayor of Boston, 1906-07, 1910-13"".
  3. McGoldrick, Monica. You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting with Your Family, p. 155. W. W. Norton & Company, 1995, ISBN 0-393-31650-5.
  4. Boston Herald
  5. "Massachusetts", Official Congressional Directory, 1896
  6. "Chapter Excerpt: An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek". 14 November 2006. Archived from the original on 14 November 2006.
  7. Fitzgerald, John F. (1914). Letters and speeches of the Honorable John F. Fitzgerald: mayor of Boston. City of Boston. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  8. Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2001). The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga. Simon and Schuster. pp. 88–89..
  9. "Ex-Mayor Fitzgerald's Daughter Dies at Boston". Fitchburg Sentinel. September 25, 1923. p. 12. Retrieved August 22, 2014 via
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John F. Fitzgerald.
Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph H. O'Neil
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1895 – March 4, 1901
Succeeded by
Joseph A. Conry
Preceded by
Daniel A. Whelton
Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts
Succeeded by
George A. Hibbard
Preceded by
George A. Hibbard
Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts
Succeeded by
James Michael Curley
Preceded by
Peter F. Tague
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 10th congressional district

March 14, 1919 – October 23, 1919
Succeeded by
Peter F. Tague
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