ROBERT SAMUEL KERR was born near Ada, Oklahoma. He attended Oklahoma Baptist University from 1911 to 1912, East Central Normal School from 1912 to 1915, and the University of Oklahoma from 1915 to 1916, after which he taught school for several years before serving as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery during World War I. He went on to study law privately and was admitted to the Oklahoma Bar in 1922. Kerr established an oil well drilling company in 1926 that became Kerr-McGee Oil Industries, Inc. in 1946. Prior to becoming governor, he was a Special Justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1931, President of the Oklahoma County Juvenile Council in 1935 and 1936, and a member of the Democratic National Committee in 1940. During Kerr’s gubernatorial administration, a Ballot Separation Law was enacted to protect state Democrats from an anticipated Republican sweep in 1944. Also, amendments were adopted to the state Constitution establishing a sinking fund to retire state bonds, creating a State Pardon and Parole Board, removing various college boards of regents from politics, reestablishing the primary runoff system, and providing free textbooks for public schools. While governor, Kerr was a member of the Interstate Oil Compact Commission, a member of the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association, and Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Association. Much of Kerr’s administration occurred during World War II, when forty-one military installations and nine prisoner of war camps were opened in Oklahoma. Although Kerr opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination for a fourth presidential term, he remained loyal to the Democratic Party and gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention of 1944. He was also a member of the Democratic National Committee once again that year and in 1948. After leaving office, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1947 until his death on New Year’s Day, 1963.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 53. New York: James T. White & Company.