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Oklahoma Governors 1943-1947: Robert S. Kerr (1896-1963)

The first Oklahoma governor born within the present day state, this larger-than-life titan of business and politics rose from an Indian Territory log cabin to build the Kerr-McGee exploration and drilling colossus. He supported, dueled with, and even intimidated U.S. Presidents. He gained the moniker “The Uncrowned King of the Senate” and he received from one Oklahoma newspaper the valedictory, “If Will Rogers was Oklahoma’s most loved citizen, then Kerr was its most powerful.”


Born to devout, tenant farming parents near Ada in the Chickasaw Nation of old Indian Territory, Kerr did everything from teach school at age 16 to sell magazines, in order to manage two-years of college correspondence courses and a year at the OU Law School. After serving in the army during World War I, he experienced the early joys of a family. Those joys, however, soon gave way to a staggering series of tragedies. Between 1920 and 1924, he lost twin daughters at birth, his burgeoning wholesale produce business burned down, and his wife and a new baby both died in childbirth.


Tragedy to Triumph


Leaning on his faith and his work, Kerr pursued the law profession, and in 1925 married Grayce Breene, daughter of a Tulsa oilman. Then he parlayed his legal work and business and deal making brilliance into a decade-long series of exploits that earned him a fortune and launched Oklahoma’s greatest political career.


1926: Negotiated for the opportunity to earn a 20% share of an Oklahoma drilling fi