Senator Robert M. Kerr’s tomorrows were always more important to him than his yesterdays. After expecting the news for weeks, we learned Senator Kerr from Altus passed away in Oklahoma City early Wednesday morning. He is not the first nor will he be the last great man or woman to succumb to the cancer cell’s wrath, but his legacy won’t be just his valiant fight with cancer.
Senator Kerr was a Democrat from the southwest corner of our state. I am a Republican representing the great City of Edmond. We have very different constituencies and differing party loyalties. Yet we both shared a love of our state and a hopeful vision for seeing us become more than who we are today.
When our Majority Floor Leader, Senator Ted Fisher stood up and read the letter from Senator Kerr announcing to the Senate that his cancer, which had been in remission for almost a dozen years, had returned and that he would begin immediate treatment, I didn’t expect that Senator Kerr would be in the Senate Chamber day after day, hour after hour, excusing himself without bravado or notice to relive the sickness which was brought on by the chemotherapy. This man was an iron horse who served his constituents to the very end.
Senator Kerr passed landmark pieces of legislation, but didn’t feel the need to call press conferences to call attention to it at every step in the process. He was the principal author of the Living Will bill in Oklahoma. He championed the state’s schools for the deaf and blind. He wrote the legislation which helps our crime fighters have access to the latest fingerprint technology. Senator Kerr authored the enabling legislation to encourage horizontal drilling which is so needed in Oklahoma’s energy sector today. These are but a few of his many accomplishments for the State of Oklahoma. My limited observations of the past year of service with him are that he was a quiet man who rarely spoke or sought attention. We need many more people like Bob Kerr in the Oklahoma Legislature.
He was once asked why he would run again for the State Senate when he was already approaching his seventies. He responded to his old friend with this quote: “when my yesterdays become more important than my tomorrows, I will resign immediately."
Senator Kerr’s tomorrows were always more important than his yesterdays. I know we will all remember our yesterdays with him with fondness and I pray that we will work for our tomorrows with the same incredible dedication Robert Kerr demonstrated to us.