The sudden passing of Pasadena Councilman John J. Kennedy prompted scores of tributes and reflections about the positive impact of his legacy.
Kennedy, who served nearly 10 years on the Pasadena City Council, reportedly died of a heart attack on July 21. He was 61-years-old. Prior to his council tenure, he amassed an impressive career as an executive in the private, public and nonprofit sectors where he gained a reputation for serving others.
“John was a great human being and an extraordinary politician. Clearly, he was a man of the people and for certain, man of a God,” said Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., president/CEO of The Bakewell Company, about his longtime friend and fellow resident of Pasadena.
“He will be missed in our community during our greatest time of need, but one thing for certain, if anybody is in the arms of God, it is John. He was a deeply religious man and he and his family are an absolute treasure to Pasadena,” noted Bakewell.
Echoing those sentiments, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-41), who represents Pasadena in the California State Assembly, said, “John had a force-of-nature personality, always caring for the community and specifically, those most in need. My family and I will miss him terribly and send our condolences and pray God’s peace over his loving family.”
As a councilmember, Kennedy dedicated considerable time and energy to providing the highest quality of resources for the residents and businesses in Pasadena’s District 3. He strongly advocated for public safety, parks, affordable housing, local hiring and environmental equity for his constituents.
Previously a vice mayor of the city, he was recently re-elected to the City Council for a third term. Commenting on Kennedy’s commitment to the city, Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo cited the effects of Kennedy’s deep dedication.
“While we are all deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and colleague, John Kennedy, we should always remember and celebrate his many accomplishments and contributions to our city and beyond,” Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo said in a statement.
“John Kennedy loved Pasadena and the people of Pasadena. He worked hard every day to make Pasadena a better place for everyone. He dedicated himself to helping others, and we are all better off because of his efforts. His was a life well-lived.”
Comparable remarks were shared by Robert C. Davidson, Jr., Chair Emeritus of the Art Center Board of Trustees in Pasadena and founder of Surface Protection Industries, Inc., one of the largest African American-owned manufacturing companies in the nation.
“John was a giant among men with a heart of gold. John was a servant leader, who lived his life concerned with the welfare of others. John served his family, his friends, his community and the world. He was always trying to improve the lives of those around him,” Davidson said.
A Pasadena native, Kennedy attended Blair High School and USC, receiving degrees in International Relations and Economics. He went on to earn a law degree at Howard University School of Law, and later served as the youngest president of the Pasadena branch of the NAACP.
In 1987, he established John J. Kennedy and Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in program development, public relations, dispute resolution, grant writing and real estate entitlements. From 1995 to1998, he resided in Richmond, Virginia, where he was appointed Chief of Police Administrative Services Deputy for Richmond Police Department. Also, he earned a certificate in Police Executive Leadership from the Jepson Leadership School.
Returning to the West Coast, Kennedy worked in management for Southern California Edison from 2004 to 2011. He later accepted an executive position with the Los Angeles Urban League directing the fundraising and acting as the nonprofit’s liaison with all levels of government.
He was elected to the Pasadena City Council in 2013, serving on the Public Safety and Finance committees and representing the city on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. Kennedy also headed the Pasadena’s Sister Cities delegation to China and Taiwan in 2014. Years earlier, he had led a city delegation to Dakar-Plateau, Senegal, which recently became Pasadena’s newest Sister City.
According to family members, “Throughout his career, John consistently demonstrated caring and innovative leadership. Results-oriented, he exhibited initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit in accomplishing tasks and achieving goals.
“Knowledge and awareness of domestic and international governmental practices and procedures, enhanced by broad travel experience and political exposure, helped him to achieve consensus on scores of public issues. He was a consummate team player.”
John J. Kennedy was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Leola Sudduth Kennedy; brother, Michael; and sisters, Gladys and Glenda.
He is survived by his sisters, Geraldine, Sharon, Rosalinda, Lena, and Elizabeth; brother, Malcolm; brother-in-law, Redell Ellis; sisters-in-law, Faye Kennedy and Marvell Kennedy; and many other relatives and friends. Also cherishing his memory is Dr. Roseline Dauphin, his dear friend and companion.
The family issued the following statement: “The Kennedy Family is devastated and heartbroken over the tragic passing of our beloved youngest brother, John. He was bigger than life. John was a beautiful human being, who loved life, loved people and loved his community.
“His passing creates an unbearable, unimaginable, unfillable void in our hearts and in our city. We ask that the community work with us to fill the void and uplift our city in John’s honor.”
Flags at all city facilities were lowered to half-staff in Kennedy’s memory. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that contributions be made in his honor to the Leola Sudduth and Thomas Foster Kennedy Scholarship Fund at the Pasadena Community Foundation. Donations can be made online at bit.ly/PCFKennedyFund.
A celebration of his life was pending at press time. Cards of condolence may be mailed to P.O. Box 40371, Pasadena, CA 91114.