TRIBUTE

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;

wait for the Lord!

 
Psalm 27 13:14
"The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it."
 
William James

The Daily Oklahoman January 2, 1963

An Editorial

 ROBERT S. KERR

 

A GIANT has fallen. Oklahoma’s ablest and most honored native son was struck down yesterday. He was in the prime of his power and at the pinnacle of his career, a statesman and a patriot. He was the champion defender and developer of his native Oklahoma. No other man had fought so hard and achieved so much in raising Oklahoma to a high place in the eyes of the world.

 

His ability, energy and keenness of intellect challenged the admiration of his friends and the fear of his opponents. In his death, Oklahoma has suffered a crippling wound. The nation itself and the whole world in which our country moves will suffer changes unknown.

 

Seldom has one man so dominated the course and future of his beloved state. In the death of Senator Kerr, the state of Oklahoma has been shaken to its foundations. A host of friends and uncounted numbers of his opponents will deplore his untimely death.

 

Always he was friend to the poor, a generous giver who shared his wealth unstintingly in a myriad of benefactions.

 

Now is no time to count or evaluate the extent of the disaster which has fallen upon the country and his cherished Oklahoma.

 

Where is the leader who can take his place?

The Daily Oklahoman January 2, 1963

ROBERT S. KERR

 

"Lots of trees are cut down in the forest. And except for a stump, you would not know they had been there. But every once in a while, a great oak falls. And it leaves a gaping vacancy against the sky."

The Daily Oklahoman January 2, 1963

OUR LOSS IS NATION’S LOSS

 

In the death of Senator Robert S. Kerr Oklahoma suffers an irreparable loss that is the loss also of the entire nation.

 

For no single individual in either branch of congress exercised quite the influence on Capitol Hill that the genial and politically astute Senator Kerr acquired in his 14 years as a senator.

 

The power vacuum that his departure leaves in the senate is matched by a similar yawning power vacuum on his home state’s political scene. In recognition of his growing national stature the senator recently was becoming widely known as the “Uncrowned King of the Senate.”

 

The vacancy he leaves will be harder to fill for the very reason that he occupied no formal position of senate leadership other than his strategic committee assignments. A vacated majority leadership can be filled readily. Seniority and established senatorial succession fills vacant committee chairmanships.

 

But Senator Kerr’s leadership was of a different order, deriving largely from his own agile and discerning mind, his expansive nature and his supreme self-confidence.

 

On the senate floor he usually managed to control any discussion in which he participated.  Any senator who tried to stand up to him ran the risk of being swamped by a torrent of wry witticisms, ornate rhetoric, and incontrovertible logic.

 

Senator Kerr always was careful to do his homework, a circumstance his senate opponents invariably encountered whenever they tried to trip him up on his facts. His mastery of detail was astounding. Even though his oratorical thrusts were delivered usually in an amiable and good-natured manner, his colleagues often confessed he was the last man in the senate they wanted to engage in debate.

 

His towering influence in the senate was attributed to his chairmanship of the rivers and harbors sub­ committee of the senate public works committee. In this position he was able to obligate other senators who sought favorable subcommittee action on rivers and harbors projects in their own bailiwicks.

 

Senator Kerr was in line for the public works chairmanship after the death of Senator Dennis Chavez last November 18 but preferred to remain with the rivers and harbors subcommittee. He also was ranking senator after the ailing Senator Harry Byrd on the powerful senate finance committee.

 

His chairmanship of the space committee gave him a position of crucial strategic importance in the dawning space age. Oklahoma looked largely to its tireless senior senator to give it an increasing role in space industries.

Kerr Legacy & Historical Center, Inc.

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