We Know We Belong to the Land - A Hundred Years of Oklahoma and the Congress
America in Turmoil (part 4)
Internal House reforms under Carl Albert's speakership ended the absolute power of heads of committees, transferred power to the leadership, and led to greater control by the majority party. Despite new institutional powers and substantial Democratic majorities, Congress still achieved no more than a stand-off in veto battles with President  Ford.
Robert S. Kerr on a tractor with Mike Monroney, William Fox Cassidy, Ed Edmondson, and Quincy Sandus
Above: Critics charged that the Arkansas River Navigation Project was a "gigantic pork barrel boondoggle" that could not be economically justified. But Robert S. Kerr justified the Arkansas Project from a security standpoint when he noted that the "pagan and Godless" Russia was using its natural resources more efficiently than the U.S. In September 1962, Kerr operates a gold-colored bulldozer at the ground-breaking ceremonies held at the Port of Muskogee. The success of the Arkansas Project was the result of the Oklahoma congressional delegation's working together. According to Congressman Tom Steed, the Oklahomans "stuck so closely together that it became a saying in the cloakroom that if you scratch one Okie you scratch them all." Joining Kerr on the bulldozer are (left to right) Mike Monroney, Major General William Fox Cassidy,  Ed Edmondson, and Quincy Sandus.
Robert S. Kerr and Wernher von Braun
All of Oklahoma was stunned by Robert S. Kerr's death on New Year's Day, 1963. The senator's passing not only lessened Oklahoma's power in the Congress but also removed the main stabilizing force for Oklahoma Democrats. Five years later the voters retired three-term Senator A. S. “Mike” Monroney and elected Henry Bellmon—Oklahoma's first Republican governor—as the first registered Republican senator since 1930. Democrats J. Howard Edmondson and Fred R. Harris—supporters of the Great Society—kept the Kerr seat until 1972. That year Dewey F. Bartlett joined his fellow Republican and predecessor as governor in the Senate, repeating the similar Republican monopoly on Senate seats which John W. Harreld and William B. Pine had enjoyed in the mid-1920s.
Robert S. Kerr and Adlai Stevenson
Above: In 1952, Robert S. Kerr entered the Nebraska presidential primary. After being soundly defeated, Kerr realized his only real hope was a deadlocked Democratic convention. Supporters strove to give the campaign momentum, but Kerr’s candidacy was over after the first ballot, primarily because of his reputation as a special interest senator. Kerr (left) walks with Adlai E. Stevenson who became the Democratic candidate.
Left: Robert S. Kerr (right), chairman of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, and Dr. Wernher von Braun, director of the Marshall Center, break ground for the Central Laboratory and Office Building at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama., in September 1961.
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