Kenna, John Edward

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U.S. senator; b. Kanawha County, Va. (later W. Va.), April 10, 1848; d. Washington, D.C., Jan. 11, 1893. His father, Edward Kenna, was an Irish immigrant, and his mother, Margery Lewis, came from a prominent Virginia family. His childhood was spent in southern Missouri, where frontier conditions did not permit even an elementary education. In 1864 Kenna joined Gen. Joseph O. Shelby's Confederate forces and stayed with them until their surrender at Shreveport, La., in 1865. Kenna then returned to West Virginia, studied for three years at St. Vincent's College, Wheeling, and was admitted to the bar in 1870. That year he married Rosa Quigg; after her death he married Anna Benninghaus in 1876. In 1872 he was chosen prosecuting attorney for Kanawha County, and in 1875 he became justice pro tempore of the circuit court of his district. He was elected in 1876 to the national House of Representatives. After three terms in the House, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1883 until his death. In Congress Kenna sought Federal aid for improved navigation along the Kanawha River and advocated Federal regulation of railroads. As a leader of the Democratic party, he was chairman (1886, 1888) of the Democratic Congressional Committee and a spokesman in the Senate for the administration of President Grover Cleveland. He defended Cleveland's power to remove appointed officials from office and supported his demand for tariff reform in 1887.

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