Here Gen, John R. Kennedy of Tuscaloosa, 90 year-old commander of the Alabama Confederate Veterans, is telling three University of Alabama co-eds of his experiences when he was a student at the university. He is the oldest living alumnus of the school. (Left to right) Misses Ruth McDowell, of Montgomery, and Marion Doughty and Sarah Burks, both of Tuscaloosa, seem to be enjoying his fireside chat. The picture was made in his small cottage in which he lives alone and does all the house work-except the cooking.
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He's "oldest" in the sense that he's the oldest living alumnus of the University of Alabama and that he's the oldest living member of Alpha Tau Omega, national social fraternity.
Gen. Kennedy, commander of the Alabama division of the United Confederate Veterans for the past ten years, this year was also placed in command of the Army of Tennessee, one of the three major armies of the Confederate organization.
Born in Florence, Gen. Kennedy was only thirteen years old when the War Between the States began, but like other young adventure - seeking Southerners who "thought the war would be over in 90 days, " he joined the Florence Guards, a company in the Confederate forces in which his father was a commissary officer. The youngster became a commissary sergeant himself.
After the Battle of Shiloh, in which the boy didn't fight because he was too young, he left the army to go to school, the novelty of army life having worn off.
He entered the University of Alabama in 1863, his family having moved to Tuscaloosa after the federal troops had destroyed its land at Florence.
The university at that time was a training center for Confederate officers.
"I had a hard time getting in the university and a harder time after I got in," the general says, explaining that only a limited number of cadets (about 250) were taken in.
His entrance was made possible by the "desertion" of some of the students, tired of the inaction of student life, who joined Forrest's cavalry forces to get into "some fighting." He had to "enlist" rather than "enroll" in the institution.
Discipline at the school was severe at the time. Gen. Kennedy said. Guards were posted around the outer confines of the school to keep students from leaving the grounds. Even Tuscaloosa students could come home only on Saturday and Sunday.
As for the university courses of '63 - "More attention was paid to Greek and Latin than to arithmetic," he said.
Cadets during the war period were kept in a state of excitement regarding a federal invasion, because of the lack of communications concerning the movements of the Northern troops, he pointed out. The university was finally destroyed by the federals in 1865, but Gen. Kennedy was not in school at the time.
Nor was he at the Capstone when girls graced the campus, and he whimsically regretted that they were not admitted to the school until 30 years later, in '93.
After the war he entered Cumberland University in Tennessee, where he joined the A.T.O. Fraternity in 1868, getting an Ll.B. degree at graduation.
The general admits he is getting on in years. But he's still keen-witted and intellectually alert. He likes to travel. He has been attending numerous Confederate reunions for over 20 years and has a box full of badges and medals.
He was spry enough to attend the Homecoming Day football game at the university in October. He thinks nothing of taking two-mile walks when the weather permits. He lives by himself, with a cook as the only servant, in a small cottage furnished with antiques and kept spotlessly clean and artistically arranged by the veteran.
He is active in Methodist Church affairs, rarely missing a Sunday service. His main enjoyment is company, especially pretty girls.
Time marches on, but Gen. Kennedy still takes pleasure in reminiscing about the "good old days." He is a grand old man.