MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Professor James E. Kennedy, one of the first African-American faculty members at the University of South Alabama and long-time Mobile County Public Schools administrator, passed away Saturday. He was 89 years old.

Kennedy, a Jackson, Miss. native and longtime Mobilian, leaves behind his wife, four children and three grandchildren.

A Central High School graduate, Kennedy earned a B.S. degree from Alabama State University and his M.A.T. in Art from Indiana University in 1964. He served in the United States Air Forces from 1955-1958.

Kennedy kickstarted his teaching career in the Mobile County Public School System and worked his way up to assistant principal.

In 1968, Kennedy joined the USA faculty as an instructor making him one of the first African-American faculty members at the university. He served 16 years as chairperson of the Art History Department. He specialized in painting, drawing, two-dimensional designs, art education, African-American history, and African art history.

Kennedy was featured in USA’s book “The First 50 Years in 2013.”

In total, Kennedy worked at USA for 29 years. He was the founder of the Black Student Union, established the Black Studies Degree Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, helped establish the Ethnic-American Art Slide Library and helped establish the first two Black fraternity chapters on USA campus.

Kennedy retired from USA in 1997 as Professor Emeritus.

In addition to his contributions and honors at USA, Kennedy was a four-term board member of the Mobile Museum of Art. He served 15 years as a member of the Selective Service Board.

In 2018, Kennedy was one of five artists featured in the “5 Mobile Artists” exhibit at the Mobile Museum of Art.