Scranton Alumnus Writes Book On Kennedy Progenitors

By Phil Rauch | Editor in Chief

Neal Thompson, University of Scranton alumnus (‘87), wrote his sixth book on the immigrant Kennedy progenitors, Bridget Murphy and Patrick Kennedy. They were the great grandparents of the famous John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Teddy Kennedy. They were the grandparents of the main Kennedy family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. 

Bridget Murphy and Patrick Kennedy were Irish immigrants who came to the United States as a result of the potato famine of the early 1840s. Ireland was in dire straits at that point, and many Irish citizens felt the only way to stay alive was to leave their country. 

Thompson told The Aquinas he felt he had a duty to tell the backstory of this American dynasty’s humble roots. His book is even titled The First Kennedy’s: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty. He discussed how far back this project has gone for him, too.

“I write about sort of the backstory to the story. In the opening pages of the book, it goes way back to 1999 when I was a newspaper reporter for The Baltimore Sun. I got sent to cover the death of  John F. Kennedy, Jr. His plane went down, it initially went missing, but it was subsequently found. I was up in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where the Kennedy summer compound was, right on the water. I was a part of this hoard of reporters up there covering this story, and that’s when I realized, ‘wow, we still care a lot about the Kennedy’s.’” 

Thompson further describes a motivation for writing this book that goes deeper than just the national consciousness Americans have about the Kennedy’s: the debate about immigration in the United States. 

Immigration has always been seen as a “hot-button” issue in the United States. Americans have always had strong opinions about various groups of immigrants, and at many points in history have had very negative views on a variety of immigrant groups.

“A few years ago, when we started having these weird conversations about immigration in America, the sentiments that often were previously suppressed or said as an aside suddenly became front page news. Many immigrant groups have been the target of hatred and discrimination, and I again realized the Kennedy’s were subjected to that in their day, the first Kennedy’s that is,” Thompson said. 

Thompson also detailed the research process of this book. He said that despite this being his sixth book, he mentioned it was quite different writing this one than previous ones. 

“Each book has its own challenges. I think what was unique about this one was not having people to interview. Kennedy family members don’t really know this part of their own history. I reached out to some of them, and they were gracious, but they didn’t know anything. They didn’t know about Bridget. They didn’t know about Patrick. I was surprised. They didn’t seem as interested as I hoped they might be in this story, and that when I did get through to some of them, they just didn’t know about their own past that far back.”

A few other of Thompson’s works include Kickflip Boys: A Memoir of Freedom, Rebellion, and the Chaos of Fatherhood, Driving With the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR, and A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley. 

You can find Thompson’s latest book on, here.