James Kenan (1740–1810) was a military leader of the American Revolutionary War, and an early senator of the state of North Carolina.
James Kenan was elected Sheriff of Duplin County, North Carolina at age 22. While serving as Stamp Master of North Carolina he led a company of volunteers to Wilmington to oppose the Stamp Act. He also served as Chairman of the Duplin and Wilmington Safety Committee. Later he was appointed brigadier general of the Wilmington militia district.
Kenan served as a member of the state constitutional convention in 1788 and 1789. Kenan also served as chairman on Ratification of the United States Constitution and one of the first trustees of the University of North Carolina. By the time he died he had served nine consecutive terms in North Carolina Senate. He belonged to the Masonic Fraternity and was worshipful master of St. John's Lodge No.13 of Duplin County.
Kenan married Sarah Love "Sallie" March 13, 1770 and produced eight children, including his son Thomas S. Kenan. Five members of his family would later become sheriff of Duplin County.
Historical marker F-26 was erected in his honor on North Carolina highway 24 about three miles west of Warsaw. Also, in November 2007, he was inducted into the Duplin County Hall of Fame.
In 1818 the new county seat of Duplin was named "Kenansville" in his honor. James Kenan High School located in Warsaw, North Carolina was named after him in 1958.