State Senator Robert. M. Kerr is being remembered as a statesman and gentleman. After waging a long and difficult battle, the 3yearold 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 2 years ago, but had been in remission for years. Doctors discovered the cancer had returned in early 200.
Kerr, softspoken, 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, 932, in Friendship, OK. His grandparents came to Oklahoma Territory around the turn of the century. One grandfather was a farmerstockman while the other was a circuitriding 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, DAltus, was a farmer, stockman and real estate developer. In 9, he was elected to his first term in the State Senate representing District 3. Sen. Kerr quickly rose through the ranks to leadership positions, chairing the Agriculture Committee from 9 to 99, the Rules Committee from 99 to 2000, and the Subcommittee for Human Services from 200 through 2003, and in 200, he was appointed Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, a position he held until his death. He was the current ViceChairman 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 beit 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 crimefighting computer technology.
Kerr was also author of the legislation creating the stateoftheart 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 99.
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 99, Senator Kerr stepped in and was influential in getting the Quartz Mountain State Lodge and Cultural Center rebuilt. 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 inhome care for the severely disabled.
As a legislator, Senator Kerr continued the work he started as Highway Commissioner by getting Highway 2 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 in Altus.
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 200 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 02, Altus, OK, 322002, or to the Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center at OSU, 39 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK 0339, or to a charity of your choice.