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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Kenan, Owen Hill

by Thomas S. Kenan III, 1988

23 May 1872–2 July 1963

From "The Kenan family and some allied families of the compiler and publisher."Owen Hill Kenan, physician, was born in Kenansville, the oldest child of James Graham and Anne Elizabeth Hill Kenan. After graduation from The University of North Carolina in 1894, he received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He practiced medicine first in Kenansville and later in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla.

A world traveler, Kenan was one of the few survivors of the Lusitania disaster when the vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine off the Irish coast in 1915. He joined the French Army and was awarded the French Medal of Honor. When the United States entered World War I, he joined an American unit and attained the rank of colonel. In later years he lived and maintained homes in Paris, France; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Wilmington, N.C. He was an art collector and an authority on eighteenth-century French art.

Kenan was a member of St. James Episcopal Church, Wilmington, and of Bethesda By the Sea Episcopal Church, Palm Beach; he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He never married.


Kenan family records in the author's possession.

Alvaretta Kenan Register, ed., The Kenan Family (1967).

Additional Resources:

Kenan Family in World Cat:

Kenan Family Papers, 1748-1996 (collection no. 04225). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed February 15, 2013).

A Wilmingtonian Abroad; the Remarkable Life of Owen Hill Kenan; UNCW:

The Lusitania Resource:

Owen Hill Kenan in WorldCat:

"Uniform, Hat". Accession: H.1918.14.12." 1916-1918. North Carolina Museum of History.

"Helmet, Military, Accession #: H.1918.14.15." 1916-1918. North Carolina Museum of History.

"Pot, Accession #: H.1918.14.8." . North Carolina Museum of History.

"Dispatch Bag, Accession #: H.1918.14.6." 1916. North Carolina Museum of History.

Image Credits:

Register, Alvaretta Kenan. The Kenan family and some allied families of the compiler and publisher. Statesboro, Ga., J. S. Kenan II. 1967. (accessed February 15, 2013).