John Pendleton Kennedy was an American novelist, lawyer and Whig politician who served as United States Secretary of the Navy from July 26, 1852, to March 4, 1853, during the administration of President Millard Fillmore, and as a U.S. Representative from Maryland's 4th congressional district, during which he encouraged the United States government's study, adoption and implementation of the telegraph. A lawyer who became a lobbyist for and director of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Kennedy also served several terms in the Maryland General Assembly, and became its Speaker in 1847.
Kennedy later helped lead the effort to end slavery in Maryland, which, as a non-Confederate state, was not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation and required a state law to free slaves within its borders and to outlaw the furtherance of the practice.
Kennedy also advocated religious tolerance, and furthered studies of Maryland history. He helped preserve or found Historic St. Mary's City, St. Mary's College of Maryland, the Peabody Library and the Peabody Conservatory of Music.