He was born in Halifax County, North Carolina in 1869. His father was William H. Kitchin and William Walton Kitchin was his brother. First elected in 1900 after his party secured a constitutional amendment excluding blacks from the ballot boxes of the state, a campaign in which he served as a leading orator, he served in Congress as a member of the Democratic Party until his death. In Congress, he served on the House Ways and Means Committee as well as being majority leader for 4 years. From 1915 to 1919 he was House majority leader; from this position he opposed the Wilson administration's "Preparedness" crusade, seeking unsuccessfully to hold down the growth in size of the army and navy. It was not surprising, then, that he was one of the representatives who voted against declaring war on Germany in April 1917; indeed, his example and speech against American entry probably swelled the number of dissenters to fifty. Though he threw himself into the war effort thereafter, he remained a critic of some of the administration's war policies, especially regarding taxation policies. He championed an "excess profits" tax that was steeply progressive over a policy of selling Liberty Bonds that shifted the financial burden on the war onto future generations. In 1920 he suffered a stroke after an impassioned speech, and three years later he died.