Kennedy was born in Boston, a descendant of Irish potato-famine immigrants. He went to Harvard University, then married Rose Fitzgerald in 1914 (Cardinal William O'Connell presiding); among their children were John F., Robert, and Edward. Joseph became president of the Columbia Trust Bank at age 25 and amassed great wealth through investment banking and stock market and real estate speculation. His support of Franklin Roosevelt's presidential campaign rewarded him the first chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1933, and from 1937 to 1940 he was U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.