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