Hon. William Kennedy, P.C.

Key Facts:

  • Born: August 27, 1868 Ottawa; Died, in office, January 17, 1923
  • 1903: President of the Windsor Gas Company
  • 1909-1910: President Windsor Board of Trade
  • 1913-1918: Member, Windsor Board of Education
  • 1913-1918: Councillor, Municipality of Ojibway
  • Elected Member of Parliament: Riding of Essex North, December 1917 (Liberal)
  • Re-elected 1921; named Minister of Railways and Canals by Prime Minister Mackenzie King
  • New public secondary school posthumously built and named in his honour October 1929

Born in Ottawa, William Costello Kennedy spent his formative years in Toronto, where his father was a civil servant for the Ontario government. Through his father’s connections, young Kennedy obtained the opportunity to serve as a page within the Legislative Assembly.

Kennedy’s career began in 1887 as a clerk in the business offices of the London and Canadian Loan and Agency Company of Toronto. A decade later, he moved to Essex County to take a posting with a local gas company, at that time controlled by Hiram Walker. His success in developing the gas distribution side of the business led to Kennedy become the president of Windsor Gas Company in 1903, a position he held until 1917.

During this time, Kennedy developed an interest in civic affairs and worked to advance the prospects of the Windsor region. In 1913 he sought and won a position on council as the representative for Ojibway, a responsibility he held until 1918.  During the same time he also served on the Board of Trade and the Board of Education.

For the federal election of 1917, Kennedy accepted the nomination to run as the candidate for the Liberal Party in the riding of Essex North. The candidate for the Conservatives was the well-known barrister and former time mayor of Windsor, Ernest S. Wigle. The contentious issue of conscription for the war effort, imposed by the Conservative party in power, became the deciding factor in this area of the province, and Kennedy won by a majority.

The new member distinguished himself as an able opposition financial critic, catching the attention of William Lyon Mackenzie King. After King was chosen to succeed Wilfred Laurier as the leader of the Liberal Party and then went on to win the general election of 1921, he named Kennedy to his cabinet, making the representative from Essex North the Minister of Railways and Canals.  In the early part of the twentieth century, smooth running rail systems were vital to the economy.  As Minister, Kennedy used his business acumen and negotiation skills to reorganize the confused networks of competing rail systems , in particular co-ordinating the parallel lines of the CNR and Grand Trunk Railroads.

Part way through his term of office, Kennedy became ill. An operation was performed in the summer of 1922 with hopes it would improve his condition.  In September that year, a second operation was performed. Afterwards Kennedy returned to Windsor to recuperate.  Following Christmas he and his family travelled to Florida for further rest and recovery, but their stay was cut short when Kennedy suffered sudden fatal heart attack.

In 1928, the Windsor School Board approached Kennedy’s widow for permission to name a new facility after her late husband.   Kennedy Collegiate Institute, officially opened on October 9 1929, is built on part of the former Windsor Jockey club site, located between Ouellette and McDougall Avenues.


Chauvin, Francis X. Men of achievement, Essex County. Vol. 2. ( Tecumseh : s.n., 1929)

“Funeral to be held Wednesday. Border Cities Star, January 18, 1923.

Kennedy, Hon. William Costello, P.C.”  Canada. Parliament of Canada. ParlInfo.  (website) Accessed: December 18, 2015.

Norris, Bob. History of Windsor public schools. [Windsor, Ont.? : s.n., 19??].

Rose, George M. In memory of the late Hon. William Costello Kennedy, P.C., M.P.”. (Toronto :  Hunter-Rose, [1923])  R971.332092 KEN