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Kingston was born on April 24, 1955, in Bryan, Texas. He is the son of Martha Ann (née Heddens) and Albert James Kingston Jr., a widely published university professor, who co-founded the National Reading Conference. His father was born in Brooklyn, New York and his mother in Los Angeles, California. As a child, Kingston lived briefly in Ethiopia. He grew up in Athens, Georgia. Kingston received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Georgia in 1978, where he also joined Lambda Chi Alpha and the Demosthenian Literary Society.
He has lived in Savannah since 1977. Before entering politics in 1982, he sold insurance and worked in agribusiness throughout southeastern Georgia. He was vice president of Palmer, Cay and Carswell from 1979 to 1992.
In 1984, he defeated Democratic candidate Bobby Phillips 62%–38%. He won re-election in 1986, 1988, and 1990 all unopposed.
In 1992, Kingston gave up his seat in the state house to pursue a congressional run in Georgia's 1st congressional district after five-term Democratic incumbent Lindsay Thomas announced his retirement. The district had been one of the first areas of Georgia where the old-line conservative Democratic Party voters had begun splitting their tickets and voting Republican at the national level. While conservative Democrats represented much of this area in the state legislature well into the 1990s, the district has only supported a Democratic nominee for president once since 1960, when Jimmy Carter swept every county in the state during his successful run for the presidency in 1976.
Kingston was reelected 10 times, never dropping below 63% of the vote and even running unopposed in 1998 and 2004. Even when the district included all of Savannah (as was the case from 1996 to 2002 and again after the 2010s round of redistricting), Kingston was reelected without serious difficulty.
Kingston sponsored legislation in 1999 to authorize the expansion of the Savannah harbor in order to accommodate larger vessels.
From 2003 through the end of 2006, Kingston served as vice-chairman of the House Republican Conference, the sixth-ranking post among House Republicans. An early attempt to become chair of the influential House Appropriations Committee in the 112th Congress (2011–2013) was unsuccessful. Kingston was an early supporter of earmark reforms and spending reductions. Throughout his tenure, Kingston has received over 40 awards on a diversity of issues from various interest groups.
Regarding the extension of the House work week from 3 days to 5 in 2006, Kingston commented, "Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families – that's what this says." He added, "Time away from Washington is just as important to being an effective member of Congress as time spent in the Capitol. When I'm here, people call me Mr. Congressman. When I'm home, people call me 'Jack, you stupid SOB, why did you vote that way?' It keeps me grounded."
Kingston signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge by the Americans for Tax Reform, and in 2009 he was named a "Taxpayer Hero" by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste for his votes to reduce government spending and taxes.
In 2010 Kingston signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any Global Warming legislation that would raise taxes.
Kingston is a supporter of Medicare prescription drug coverage. He has voted to allow HMOs to be sued, and also to limit damages and shorten time limits for medical lawsuits. In 2010, he voted against the Affordable Care Act, asserting the bill would raise premiums, taxes, and cut Medicare.
In an address to the Jackson County Republican Party, on December 14, 2013, Kingston, who is on the House Agricultural Committee, which oversees the federal school lunch program for the underprivileged, commented that it may be beneficial for students to "...sweep the floor in the cafeteria" to promote a work ethic and "instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch."
In May 2013, Kingston officially announced he would run for the open senate seat vacated by Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.
Kingston works as a public policy principal at the firm of Squire Patton Boggs in Washington. Since August 2015, he has been chairman of the Georgia Republican Party Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Georgia GOP. In 2016, he endorsed Ted Cruz for president, but later he served as senior advisor and spokesperson for the Donald Trump campaign. In 2017, he became a CNN political commentator. He was dropped from the network in February 2019.
On February 18, 2018, four days after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting which left 17 people dead, in an interview with CNN, Kingston suggested that the survivors of the massacre, who had organized to oppose gun violence, were being taken advantage of by "left wing activists" and funded by George Soros. His comments angered the survivors of the shooting who described them as "despicable" and called on Kingston to apologize.