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Robert S. Kerr & His River - Podcast

This episode of Oklahoma Gold! reveals the audacious, 30-year saga of how a giant of Oklahoma history, “The Uncrowned King of the U.S. Senate,” overcame opponents near and far, friend and foe, to deliver flood control, small and large dams, watershed improvement, soil conservation, hydroelectric power, an unprecedented outdoor recreational area, and ocean-bound navigation to impoverished eastern Oklahoma.


Join John and KTOK/iHeartRadio star Gwin Faulconer-Lippert to hear of perhaps the greatest of all the feats of the man at whose death the state’s mightiest newspaper cried on its front page, “Where is the leader who can take his place?” It’s the 56th episode of our original OKLAHOMA GOLD! radio program and podcast. Go HERE to listen to them all! Future episodes explore more great heroes, events, and movements of Oklahoma History.

ROBERT S. KERR

Charles Banks Wilson’s large, classic painting of oilman, governor, and U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr. It hangs in the rotunda of the State Capitol of Oklahoma. Courtesy Wilson, Oklahoma Historical Society, and Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.

 
KERR RIDING SENATE CARTOON

Oklahoma Senator Robert S. Kerr’s power grew as the 1950s passed until he became known as “The Uncrowned King of the U.S. Senate.” He needed every bit of muscle, wit, and charm he possessed to bring the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System to life. Courtesy Scripps-Howard.

 
KERR SAILING CARTOON

Jim Lange’s classic depiction of how Oklahoma Senator Robert S. Kerr became very “popular” with presidents who needed his support to get their programs approved and feared his opposition to them. Woven throughout his initiatives were benefits to his beloved Oklahoma. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Oklahoma Historical Society.

 
WEBBERS FALL CONSTRUCTION AND ENGINEER

Looking upriver at the late-1960s construction of the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam, Muskogee County, one of a series of massive water controls brilliantly designed along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Charles W. Surbey of Muskogee was the veteran resident engineer overseeing the project. His resume included the Eufaula Dam and Lake, Oklahoma’s largest, in 1961. Construction photo Jim Argo. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Oklahoma Historical Society.

 
PRESIDENT NIXON DEDICATION

Big Bob Kerr’s “Flood of Conviction” dream finally came true 30 years later and nearly a decade after the “Uncrowned King of the Senate’s” own death. President Richard Nixon dedicated the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System on June 5, 1971 before a crowd of 25,000 people and against a backdrop of oceangoing shipping vessels anchored on the Verdigris River that symbolized its use.” Photo Jim Argo. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Oklahoma Historical Society.

 
RIVER SYSTEM OPERATING 1997

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System operating full throttle in 1997 at the ¾-mile-wide Webbers Falls Lock and Dam. Looking downriver at the same site pictured above from the opposite direction while under construction 30 years before. Photo Jim Argo. Courtesy Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Oklahoma Historical

 

Many thanks to Atwoods Ranch and Home, a farm and ranch supply company based in Enid, Oklahoma, for their support of the Red River Institute of History and OKLAHOMA GOLD! Please support them as you are able! Wherever you are, you can order online from thousands of quality products on their terrific website HERE. Atwoods also has 66 stores in 5 states: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. In addition to farm and ranch supplies, Atwoods stores sell clothing, lawn and garden items, tools, hardware, automotive supplies, sporting goods, pet supplies, firearms, and seasonal items.



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