Who Is General John Kelly? Everything You Need To Know

The story of the Trump Presidency will be incomplete without the mention of General John Kelly. A retired commander of the U.S. Southern Command and a four-star general, Kelly served the Trump administration first as a Secretary of Homeland Security and later as the White House Chief of Staff.

A veteran of many wars and one of the nations longest serving Generals at the time of his retirement, General John Kelly has had a distinguished career in public service, a legacy that will surely remain intact irrespective of how the Trump Presidency is viewed in hindsight.

Who Is General John Kelly?

Kelly was born on May 11, 1950, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Josephine and John Kelly who were of Italian and Irish descent respectively. He was raised in the Oak Square neighborhood, a conservative area with an Irish-Catholic majority located on the western edge of Boston.

He enrolled in the Marine Corps as a young teenager in the earlier ’70s and by 1987 he had been promoted to the rank of a major and served as battalion operations officer and later as the head of Offensive Tactics at the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.

During his career, he held positions as the Commandant’s Liaison Officer to the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, Special Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, in Mons, Belgium.

At the turn of the century, General John Kelly was posted to the Second Marine Division as the assistant chief of staff G-3 with the Second Marine Division. He was later on posted to the 1st Marine Division in 2002 as the assistant division commander and deployed to Iraq. He was promoted to Brigadier General In March 2003 while in Iraq and commanded a troop among the American forces that invaded Baghdad.

The US Senate confirmed Kelly as a Major General on September 11, 2007, and on February 9th, 2008 he resumed as Commander of the Multi-National Force-West in Iraq as a replacement for Major General Walter E. Gaskin. On March 9th, 2011, Kelly was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and confirmed by the Senate on March 16, 2011.

Everything You Need To Know About General John Kelly

Military Career

As a child growing up, John Kelly was full of energy and always in need of an activity, a naturally restless spirit, it was only natural that he gravitated towards military service. In 1970, he signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps first with the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Kelly was commissioned a second lieutenant on December 27, 1975, and the following year, graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston. He bagged a Master of Arts degree in National Security Affairs in 1984 from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Eleven years later in 1995, he added another Masters degree, this time in Strategic Studies from the National Defense University in Washington, DC.

His first posting was as an assignment monitor with the Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. in 1981. He served in this capacity for three years. He was promoted to the rank of Major in 1987 and tasked with the role of the 2nd Marine Division’s operations officer.

Over a glittering career spanning over four decades, General John Kelly served in United States Southern Command, the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and the Multinational Force West. General Kelly is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the Iraq War where he assumed command of the Multi-National Force-West in Iraq, as a replacement for Major General Walter E. Gaskin.

Stint As Homeland Secretary

In the run-up to the 2016 Presidential elections, Gen. Kelly openly expressed his reservations about the candidacy of both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, he, however, was open to serve if called upon.

President Trump had run a campaign on tough immigration laws on the Southern border, so when Kelly’s name was muted as a possible Secretary of Homeland Security, it came as no surprise. With his extensive experience as Commander of the United States Southern Command, it was a perfect pick.

General John F. Kelly was nominated on December 7, 2016, by then President-elect Donald Trump as Secretary of Homeland Security and was confirmed by the United States Senate with a vote of 88–11.

As Secretary of Homeland Security, his job brief covered immigration, border security, domestic terrorism threats, and cybersecurity. During his tenure, he was tasked with driving the controversial travel ban targeted at several majority-Muslim countries. He also oversaw a policy geared toward a reduction in refugee admissions and ramped up deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Tenure As Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff

During his time as Boss of Homeland Security, General John Kelly stood out as one of the Presidents appointees to have the least friction with him, executing his hardline policies to near perfection.

General John Kelly
image source Gen. John Kelly and John Bolton

After the removal of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff, the President on July 28, 2017, appointed Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. His appointment was seen by most observers as a move to bring some calm, decorum and maturity to the White House after the tumultuous early months of the Trump Presidency.

His first move was on assumption of office was to relieve Anthony Scaramucci of his job as communications director. This was despite the fact that he was just ten days earlier. Scaramucci had boasted that he reports directly to Trump. The controversial White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was the next to get the boot in August 2017.

After a series of controversies and deterioration of his relationship with Trump, on December 8, 2018, the President revealed that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney would replace Kelly in an acting capacity as his Chief of Staff.

Also Read: Michael Flynn Bio, Son, Wife, Education, How Is He Connected To Russia?

Family Life

General John F. Kelly is married to Karen Kelly. They have been married since 1976. They have three children: Robert, John Jr., and Kathleen. Tragedy struck the Kelly family on November 9, 2010, when his first son First Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly while on patrol was killed in Sangin, Afghanistan. He stepped on an improvised landmine while leading a platoon of Marines. General Kelly’s younger son John Kelly Jr is a Marine Corps major.

Net Worth

General John Kelly was part of what many consider to be the wealthiest cabinet ever put together in American history. The net worth of that cabinet is put at an estimated $4.5 billion. General Kelly’s net-worth is put at a respectable $4 million.


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