Wes Kennedy

Born:                 April 12, 1959
Died:                 May 25, 2019

Turtle Years:   Aug 1989 – June 2002;  Jan 8, 2008 – June 2018
Section:            Baritone

A Turtle’s Tribute:


James Wesley Kennedy, known as Wes, was born on April 12, 1959 in Gadsden, Alabama, the only son of James Kennedy and Gladys Goldsborough Kennedy. A younger sister, Cassandra, died shortly after birth.

Wes graduated from Gadsden High School in 1977 and attended Jacksonville State University for a year, before transferring to Auburn University. He worked his way through Auburn, paying for it entirely by himself. He graduated with a degree in Psychology in 1983.

Wes felt the call to ministry and enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas in the fall of 1983. He was ordained as a Baptist minister and served for a time as the Youth Minister for Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.

When Wes returned to Southwestern to finish the final few credits for his degree, he was turned in for being gay. Wes was interrogated by Seminary officials who demanded that he turn in other gays at Southwestern. Wes refused and was not allowed to finish his degree. Despite the cruelty of the Seminary, however, Wes never lost his Christian faith which remained deep and abiding throughout his life.

Wes found a different form of ministry in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He was in the fight from the beginning and spent his career working as an HIV educator, first with the Dallas County Health Department, and then with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Department of Internal Medicine.

Wes’s HIV work took him to southern Africa during the worst of the epidemic there in the 1990s and early 2000s. He worked in remote villages in Zambia and Botswana as well as townships in South Africa. Huntington’s Disease forced Wes to retire in 2008.

Wes loved music and was a Life Member of the Turtle Creek Chorale. He received his 25 year pin on April 18, 2019. He discovered the then-new Chorale shortly after leaving the Seminary and moving to Dallas. Finding the Chorale and his gay family was life-changing and healing for him.

Wes met his future husband, Sam Hawk in October, 2000. They were married as soon as they could be, September 1, 2007 in Vancouver, British Columbia. They got married again in New York City on April 12, 2014 just because they could.

Sam and Wes’s dear friend Roy Lierman were at his bedside as he took his last breath on May 25, 2019.

Wes is survived by his husband, Sam Hawk of Dallas, Texas and an uncle, Tom Goldsborough of Bella Vista, Arkansas. He is also survived by his brothers in the Turtle Creek Chorale, the countless lives he touched with his HIV work and his music, and his many friends who were lucky enough to share his loving presence.

Memorials may be made to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, hdsa.org.

Please join friends and family at a

Memorial Service to celebrate his life at

11:00AM, Saturday, June 1, 2019 at

Northaven United Methodist Church,

11211 Preston Rd,

Dallas, Texas  75230


Northaven United Methodist Church

  •  Email Details

  • 11211 Preston Rd
    Dallas, TX 75230


A Turtle’s History

James Wesley (Wes) Kennedy, baritone, was born April 12, 1959 in Gadsden, AL and died here in Dallas on May 25 of this year. Wes joined the TCC in October 1989.

His first concert was “A Perfect 10”; he sang his last concert in “Outlaws” in June 2018.

In total, Wes was a singing member for 25 years (100 concerts). In four different concerts he played a monk twice and a Munchkin twice.

In his earlier years, Wes studied at both Jacksonville State University and at Auburn and was graduated in 1983 with a degree in psychology. In the fall of that same year Wes enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, with the intention of being ordained a Baptist minister. He succeeded in that and served for a time at President Clinton’s church in Little Rock. Later, he returned to Fort Worth for his last few academic credits. Instead, he was outed by a classmate, forced to appear before some seminary officials who demanded that he reveal the identities of fellow gay seminarians. Wes refused and was summarily expelled with his credits withheld. Undaunted, Wes, still feeling the “call,” joined in the fight against HIV/Aids, working first as an HIV educator with the Dallas County Health Department, and then with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine. He often drove the vans into Dallas’ worst neighborhoods to meet with those who needed his help. Wes’s work next took him to Africa, twice, to work in the HIV epidemic then ravaging Zambia and Botswana and South Africa in the 1990s and early 2000s. Huntington’s Disease forced his retirement in 2008. Wes appeared onstage and sang as long as he could, and  retired from performing only a few months ago.

FirstPerformance: “A Perfect 10” on October 22, 1989 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony
LastPerformance: “Outlaws” on June 10, 2018 at the Moody Performance Hall
1. “Fa La La” – Dec. 1991 – Played a Merry Monk in the “Santa’s 2-fer Discount Wholesale
Warehouse Club” skit.
2. “The Wizard of Oz” – Oct. 1993 – Played the part of a Munchkin.
3. “Blast from the Past & Best from the Future” – Dec. 1994 – Played the part of a Monk.
4. “The Wizard of Oz, v. 2” – March 1997 – Played the part of a Munchkin.
1. 16 th Season – Special Needs Coordinator
2. 16 th Season – a member of the board of directors
LeadershipPosition: Terrapin in May 2010
CommitteeMemberships: 23 rd Season – Membership Committee
1. 2005 – Attended the 25 th anniversary party and sang with the Chorale in the 25 th
Anniversary Concert in February 2005.
2. 2016-2017 – became a Life Member by a vote of the entire membership
3. 100 Concerts performed in 25 years.