Kennedy was born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Sacramento, California. He was the son of Anthony J. Kennedy, an attorney with a reputation for influence in the California legislature, and Gladys (née McLeod), who participated in many local civic activities. As a boy, Kennedy came into contact with prominent politicians of the day, such as California Governor and later U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren. He served as a page in the California State Senate as a young man. Kennedy attended C. K. McClatchy High School where he was an honors student and graduated in 1954.