J. J. Kennedy was a businessman and pioneer coal dealer for all of Alameda County who became known as the "Coke King of Oakland." Kennedy began his career as an iron molder in 1881. Through careful saving, he was able to open his own coal business in 1887 with $335.35 in capital. The coal yard was located at 8th and Chester Streets, and as the city grew, so did the business until in the late 1800's Kennedy supplied virtually all of Alameda County's coal, including all the coal for the city, county and state government buildings in the area, as well as the University of California.