The records of Muskogee and the state would be incomplete and unsatisfactory were there failure to make prominent reference to Eugene Mortimore Kerr, who has served as a member of both the house of representatives and senate in the general assembly and who in many other ways has contributed to public progress and improvement, while in business circles he has gained a most creditable name and position. Mr. Kerr was born in Granville, Ohio, November 11, 1869, and is a son of E. M. and Elizabeth Triphena (Roberts) Kerr. The father was engaged in the real estate business for many years, thus providing for the support of his family. His father and his grandfather erected the first houses in Chicago that were sold on the installment plan.
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Eugene M. Kerr pursued his advanced education in Central College, a Presbyterian institution in Central, Ohio, and when his textbooks were put aside and he made his initial step in the business world he became a bookkeeper at Columbus, Ohio, occupying the position for two years. He was afterward with the Rocky Mountain News at Denver, Colorado, for a year and later he was sent by that paper to the Cherokee Strip at its opening, arriving there on the 16th of September, 1893, and covering the news for the paper which he represented. When his health had improved he resigned his position in order to write for eastern newspapers and was thus employed until November, 1894, when he again went to Columbus, Ohio.
It was in that city, on the 28th of November, 1894, that Mr. Kerr was united in marriage to Miss Edith Dill and they became the parents of two children: E. M., who is of the fourth generation to bear that name; and Kathryn, who is now Mrs. Bernard A. Gillespie of Phoenix, Arizona. Her husband is a civil engineer, interested in mine development work, and has the largest private irrigation project in the world, covering one hundred and twenty-five thousand acres.
Mr. Kerr after his marriage continued to devote his attention to newspaper work until the 8th of November, 1904, when he came to Muskogee and here published the first extra edition in the history of the town in connection with the election of Roosevelt. He later purchased the Times-Democrat and was owner thereof until December, 1917, when he joined the army for service in the World war, becoming major of infantry in charge of the draft for Oklahoma. He served with that rank until May, 1919, when he received his discharge.
Under Mr. Kerr’s editorship the Muskogee Times-Democrat was a strong advocate of the prohibition of the liquor traffic and an advocate of law enforcement.
Major Kerr was appointed by the federal court receiver for the river-bed cases and has in this connection in his custody one million, five hundred thousand dollars. His life work has been fruitful of good results for the public. He has served as a member of the House of Representatives of Oklahoma and for four years, from 1916 until 1920, was state senator.
Mr. Kerr belongs to the First Presbyterian church of Muskogee, in which he is serving as a trustee. He is also a charter member of the Rotary Club of this city and belongs as well to the Chamber of Commerce, feeling deep interest in these organizations and the work which they accomplish in extending the trade relations of the city and upholding civic standards. Mr. Kerr left Ohio just one hundred and two years after the first representative of his family settled there.
There is an interesting coincidence in his family history. His father and his grandfather served together in the Union army during the Civil war and Mr. Kerr and his son were both soldiers of the World war, the latter having been a sergeant major with the Rainbow Division, serving throughout the period of hostilities with that notable command, which covered itself with glory on the battle fields of France. The name Kerr has ever been a synonym for loyalty and public-spirited citizenship and equal fidelity to trust has been manifest in all of the relations of life in which Eugene Mortimore Kerr of this review has figured.