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John Doby Kennedy was born in Camden, South Carolina on January 5, 1840. He entered South Carolina College at the age of 16, and was admitted to the bar in 1861.
Kennedy was one of the first to answer the Southern call to arms, and Kennedy's military career will forever be linked to that of Joseph B Kershaw's, as both men served together, in all the major engagements of that war.
Kennedy survived fifteen wounds in six different battles, but recouperated quickly. When Kennedy received command at the age of 24, he became one of the youngest Brigadier Generals in the Army.
In January of 1865, Kennedy's brigade was detached to join Johnston's army, with whom they served until their surrender at Greensboro, North Carolina in May of 1865.

After the war, Kennedy worked hard to free South Carolina from the yoke of carpetbagger Reconstructionism, and was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1880. He'd won a Senate seat earlier, but was denied it after he refused to take the "iron-clad oath".
In 1884 President Grover Cleveland appointed Kennedy Consul General at Shanghai, China, a post that was to last for four years.
Kennedy passed away on April 14, 1896 after a sudden stroke.