Kendall was born in Wilkes County, Georgia on November 4, 1849. He attended the University of Georgia, but from a lack of means left before the end of the college year. He started teaching in South Carolina. In 1870 he attended the University of Virginia and studied there for two years. He took enough classes to equal a Master's degree, but the classes had irregular grouping and no attempt was made to shape it into a degree.
He came to Texas in 1874 and helped organize the Honey Grove High School of the Paris District Conference in 1875 and the Walcott Institute in 1881. In 1884 he took the presidency of Pritohett Institute in Glasgow, Missouri, then in 1891 was elected superintendent of Honey Grove, Texas. While at this posistion he conducted summer normal schools as a secretary of the Executive Committee, was president of the Texas State Teacers' Association, and was elected Sate Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1901 he resigned and took up the call to organize and control the North Texas State Normal.