Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: January
Senator Robert M. Kerr
Senator Kerr Remembered as Statesman
State Senator Robert.
M. Kerr is being remembered as a statesman and gentleman. After
waging a long and difficult battle, the 73-year-old lawmaker has
lost his bout with cancer. Surrounded by family and friends, he
passed away Wednesday morning shortly before seven at the OU Medical
Center in Oklahoma City. Kerr had first been diagnosed with cancer
12 years ago, but had been in remission for 11 years. Doctors discovered
the cancer had returned in early 2005.
Kerr, soft-spoken, yet highly effective, was respected as a leader
by both Democrats and Republicans, and was often referred to by
members of both parties as the most respected man in the State Senate.
Kerr was born on May 20, 1932, in Friendship, OK. His grandparents
came to Oklahoma Territory around the turn of the century. One grandfather
was a farmer-stockman while the other was a circuit-riding Methodist
preacher to the Indians. Kerr graduated from Altus High School and
received a degree in agriculture from Oklahoma State University.
He also served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Kerr, D-Altus, was a farmer, stockman and real estate developer.
In 1986, he was elected to his first term in the State Senate representing
District 38. Sen. Kerr quickly rose through the ranks to leadership
positions, chairing the Agriculture Committee from 1988 to 1994,
the Rules Committee from 1995 to 2000, and the Subcommittee for
Human Services from 2001 through 2003, and in 2004, he was appointed
Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, a position he held until
his death. He was the current Vice-Chairman of Appropriations.
Former State Senator Dick Wilkerson said while Kerr was not the
kind of person to make a lot of noise about his accomplishments,
there were many important programs that would not have been accomplished
without him. He recalled his friend as a gentleman and said members
of both parties had respect and genuine affection for him.
“Bob Kerr was the kind of public servant that all of us should
have been and I think that most of us tried to be—it was just
a lot easier for him,” Wilkerson said. “He started off
from a premise that everybody meant well. Everybody wanted to do
the right thing and that maybe we just differed on how to get there.
He always thought the best of people.”
Throughout his career, Sen. Kerr was responsible for numerous pieces
of landmark legislation. He wrote laws encouraging horizontal drilling,
which has increased oil and gas production in Oklahoma, especially
in the areas of secondary recovery. Kerr was also author of the
Rural Economic Development bill.
He was author of the statewide Automated Fingerprint Identification
System (AFIS) which for the first time gave the Oklahoma State Bureau
of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies access to the
latest crime-fighting computer technology.
Kerr was also author of the legislation creating the state-of-the-art
Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center at
OSU which promotes the value added or further processing of goods
produced on our farms. He was honored by OSU by having the “Robert
M. Kerr Auditorium” named in his honor for his role in the
conception and development of the Center in 1996.
He authored the Inventors Assistance Act which resulted in adding
hundreds of jobs throughout the state by encouraging the production,
warehousing and marketing of new products through tax incentives.
He was also responsible for the Living Will bill that allows citizens
the right to decide whether or not they would want to be sustained
indefinitely on life support systems.
He was a key promoter of the Native American Cultural and Educational
Authority and the American Indian Cultural Center. After the Quartz
Mountain resort burned in early 1995, Senator Kerr stepped in and
was influential in getting the Quartz Mountain State Lodge and Cultural
As Chairman of the Subcommittee for Human Services, Sen. Kerr fought
tirelessly to protect funding for the state schools for the deaf
and blind as well as funding for in-home care for the severely disabled.
As a legislator, Senator Kerr continued the work he started as Highway
Commissioner by getting Highway 62 finished from Lawton to Altus
and was influential in getting the needed industrial access roads
in Altus to serve the industrial sites. He was currently involved
in the negotiations of getting the highway completed from Altus
to Elk City.
In an effort to increase public safety in southwest Oklahoma, Senator
Kerr spearheaded the creation of Troop M of the Highway Patrol based
When Senator Kerr addressed his colleagues and friends on the Senate
Floor to address the issue of his health, he told them the story
of a long time friend asking him “why at your age would you
want to run again?” His response was “when my yesterdays
become more important than my tomorrows, I will resign immediately.”
He stood by that sentiment until his death.
On the final day of the 2005 legislative session, Senator Kerr was
recognized to make the motion to adjourn sine die. The thundering
applause and standing ovation was evidence of the tremendous respect
and affection his fellow members felt for him.
Senator Kerr is survived by his wife Robbie, his sons Robert Keith
and Rodger and his wife Tamra, and his daughter Robin and her husband
Brad Wenk. He also leaves five grandchildren, Keithta, Braxton,
Kerrstin, Kaleb, and Kennedy.
Services for Senator Kerr are pending. The family has requested
that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Family Life Center
of the First United Methodist Church in Altus, P.O. Box 502, Altus,
OK, 73522-0502, or to the Food and Agricultural Products Research
and Technology Center at OSU, 139 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater,
OK 74078-5339, or to a charity of your choice.
more information contact:
Senate Communications Office - (405) 521-5774