Joseph J. Kennedy IV – Biography


Joe Kennedy

Joe Kennedy
Riverbends Founder & CEO

Joseph J. Kennedy, IV is the Founder and CEO of Riverbends, Inc., a nonprofit, independent and online organization that promotes African-American genealogy and history. Riverbends is designed not only to meet the needs of African-American amateur genealogists and historians, but also to provide value and inspiration to everyone interested in researching and sharing information about their family histories. Through Riverbends, Joe works with public, private, parochial and charter schools, and with religious, civic and corporate groups, offering lectures and workshops on how digital technology can help to capture and to learn from family history – and on what can be learned from the multifaceted perspectives of African-American History. Joe has taught courses in family history in the Hill District, the North Side, and Homewood, and in Oakland as part of CMU’s Osher lifelong learning program. In researching his own family history for over a decade, Joe has reached back to 1726, identifying 78 ancestors in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.

Joe Kennedy was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, as the only child of musician and educator Joseph J. Kennedy, III and Health Minister Jean C. (Megginson) Kennedy of Fox Chapel. He attended Shady Side Academy from 1973-1986, and received his B.A. in Political Science in 1990 from the College of Wooster.

Joe received his J.D. in 1993 from Cornell Law School; at Cornell, Joe was the first black Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Law Review, making him the second African-American, besides Barack Obama, to head an Ivy League law review. Joe was an attorney at the law firm of Reed Smith, LLP from 1993 through 1997, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions, securities regulation, health care law and general corporate matters in their Business & Finance Department. Joe then served as Senior Attorney and Assistant Vice President for Global Cash Management at Mellon Bank before beginning his second career in the non-profit sector. From 2001-2008, Joe was Director of Operations at The Fred Rogers Company – the non-profit organization that produced Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and that continues to create educational materials in all media for children, families, and those who support them. In 2004, Joe received a national primetime Emmy nomination as Co-Producer of the acclaimed documentary “Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor.”

In addition to running Riverbends, Joe Kennedy serves as Law Clerk to The Honorable Hugh F. McGough at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Joe was President of the City of Pittsburgh Civil Service Commission from 2006-15, helping to ensure equal opportunity in the recruitment, employment, promotion and retention of qualified persons for employment with the City of Pittsburgh. He is past Chairman of the Allegheny County Drug & Alcohol Planning Council, past President of the Renaissance City Choirs, and past President of East Liberty Development, Inc. Joe has also served on the Boards of Directors of Dreams of Hope, Shepherd Wellness Community, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Pittsburgh Fund for Arts Education, the Pittsburgh Presbyterian Foundation, and Preservation Pittsburgh, and has been a member of the Advisory Boards of Hope Academy of Music & the Arts and the Saturday Light Brigade. Joe was named one of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s “50 Men of Excellence” for 2011; the Courier extends this honor annually to 50 African-American men, nominated by readers, who have left an indelible mark of accomplishment, sacrifice and service on the Pittsburgh community.