Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy (1841-1890)

From the Tennessee legislative composite, 1882.

  This bearded gentleman is Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy of Tennessee, a physician who served in both houses of the Tennessee State Legislature. Details on Kennedy's life are noticeably absent from the internet and very few sources mention him at great length, with the exception being his service during the Civil War.
   Vitruvius J. Kennedy (most sources list him under the initials "V.J.") is listed as being born on July 9, 1840, in Clinton, Tennessee. His father, Jackson J. Kennedy, is mentioned as being a cabinet maker by trade, and when Vitruvius signed up for military service during the early months of the Civil War, he listed this as his primary occupation. 
  Genealogical websites have been quite the blessing when it comes to finding any information on "V.J." One of these sites states that he fought for the Union Army and later deserted during his service! This fact alone is worth mentioning, but it's even more strange to find out that he subsequently reenlisted sometime later, serving until his discharge at the war's conclusion! A statute book also contains Kennedy's name and lists him as a member of the First Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteer Light Artillery. 
  At some point in the years following the war, Kennedy earned a degree to practice medicine (a few sources list him with the title of "Dr.") but no available source states what school he attended or what year he graduated.
  Kennedy was also involved in Tennessee politics, hence his inclusion here. He was elected to the Tennessee State House of Representatives in 1880 and served in the legislative session of 1881-1882. The portrait of him shown above was found on the House of Representatives composite picture taken during his service. Vitruvius Kennedy was later elected to the Tennessee State Senate, and served from 1887-1889, representing both Hamilton and Marion County.

 Kennedy's abbreviated name (#28) as it looked on the Tennessee General Assembly roster of 1881-1882.

  A death date originally couldn't be found for Vitruvius Kennedy, until a useful book entitled the Congressional Serial Set (1912) gave a passage on his widow applying for a pension. The book lists him as dying on July 7, 1890, of "cancer of the larger intestine", two days before his 49th birthday. He was later interred at the Welsh-Rogers Cemetery in Sale Creek, Tennessee
  In an aside note, Kennedy's first name "Vitruvius" stems from a Roman architect, writer, and engineer named Vitruvius. This obscure Roman figure has been called by some sources as the "world's first known engineer", but it is unknown as to why V.J. Kennedy was endowed with this highly unusual first name. The rare portrait of Kennedy shown above was featured on a legislative composite portrait published during his time in the state house of representatives in 1882.

You Can Help!

  I am currently trying to find more information pertaining to the life of Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy. While a picture of him has been located, as well as information relating to his Civil War service, other aspects of his life remain a mystery. If any reader/lurker/amateur historian wants an interesting project to fill their time with, see what you can dig up on this wonderfully named man. As there is almost next to nothing on the internet about this oddly named politician, maybe someone out there knows more about him than what is already stated in this article!


  1. My great grandfather was Vitruvius Kennedy Brooks and went by the name of VK Brooks. He was born the year before Vitruvious Kennedy began serving in politics. He was from Chattanooga, Tennessee (Hamilton County). Could your Vitruvius have served in the civil war with my great great grandfather and named his son after him? His name was Anderson Brooks. ...very interesting!

    1. Hello! I just noticed your comment on Vitruvius J. Kennedy's profile here and wanted to thank you for having a look at the blog. After reading the comments about your great grandfather, I'd like to go out on a limb and venture a guess on the relationship between Kennedy and your relative. Seeing that 'ol Vitruvius was a fairly prominent figure in Hamilton County, Tennessee, there is a very distinct possibility that your great grandparents named their son in honor of him (possibly because of his civil war service, or his tenure as physician/legislator.)
      In a humorous aside note, I really can't imagine too many men in 1880s/90s Tennessee walking around with the name "Vitruvius", so the probability of your relative being named in honor of him is quite large....
      Sadly, there is very little information available on the web about V.J. Kennedy. You'd figure that a Civil War veteran and physician that served two terms in his state legislature would warrant a small biography somewhere, but unfortunately this isn't the case. A small blurb mentioning him here and there is good for casual research, but this article on Kennedy (I think) more than makes up for his lack of information on the net.
      I might also suggest taking a peak at www.ancestry.com or some of the other notable genealogical sites out there. These sites might be able to help you make a correlation between Kennedy's unusual name and your great great grandfather. The site costs money to sign up for, but a free trial is available which could hopefully aid in your research. Thank you again for your comments!

      Andy O.

  2. found this, with his picture: http://records.ancestry.com/elizabeth_jane_kennedy_records.ashx?pid=127963827

    Gaye J.

  3. Elizabeth Jane Kennedy is his daughter. That portion of ancestry.com is public. I use geni.com for my own work. I have found his sister in findagrave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39662591&ref=wvr