Kerr Elementary was named in 1964. The Port of Catoosa had recently been built, and Tulsa was the “Oil Capital of the World.” Robert Kerr played a significant part in both. Kerr suddenly died in 1963. Some people say he was arguably the most influential Oklahoman in the country, which explains the desire to honor him by many. The school was named for him shortly after his death.
Who was Robert Kerr?
Robert Kerr (1896-1963) was born in Ada, Oklahoma. He graduated from East Central University with a teaching certificate in 1913 and then lied about his age to enter World War I where he served as a second lieutenant in the field artillery. He later started Kerr-McGee with Dean McGee in 1929, and avoided much of the economic difficulty of the depression due to success in that business. Kerr was elected Governor of Oklahoma in 1942—the first governor to be born within the state’s boundaries. He was deeply affected by devastating floods that hit eastern OK in 1943 and it changed the course of his career. “The wave of human misery brought flood control to the forefront of Governor Kerr’s agenda,” noted his son’s biographer.
During the early years of the Kennedy Administration, there were few as powerful in Washington as Kerr. When Kerr suddenly died of a heart ailment, the New York Times said it, “hit Washington like the collapse of a powerful political nation.”