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“I'm a wife-made man and I suspect there actually are more wife-made men than self-made men.”

Sam and Maggie Kerr
In the fall of 1911, Robert S. Kerr enrolled as a high school junior at Oklahoma Baptist University. In an entrance interview with Erdmann Smith, dean of the university, Kerr was asked what he wanted to become and have. Without hesitating, young Kerr affirmed: "I want to be a very successful lawyer, make plenty of money, marry a beautiful and good girl, have children,
Children of Sam and Maggie Kerr
and live in a first-class house." At the time, it was said that even young Bob's father could not restrain a smile when he listened to his son's declaration. Yet, over the next thirty years, Bob Kerr would accomplish all of these feats and more; he would become an oil tycoon, an Oklahoma governor, and a U. S. Senator.
Kerr in uniform
He suffered some initial setbacks, though. World War I interrupted his college education. Attempts at running a produce wholesale business failed. In 1921 twin daughters died at birth, and the family business went up in flames. Tragedy continued three years later when his wife and a son died in childbirth. For months, Kerr was inconsolable and vowed never to remarry.
In 1925, though, he met and married Grayce Breene, the daughter of an oil man from Tulsa. The couple eventually had four children: Robert, Jr.; Breene; Kay; and William. An accomplished singer, Grayce Kerr proved to be the ideal partner for an aspiring oil man-politician. Indeed, shortly after the wedding Kerr went into the oil business. Years later, Kerr remarked that when he married Grayce he had to borrow a thousand dollars to launch the marriage. Perhaps it was a truism, then, when Kerr remarked, "I'm a wife-made man and I suspect there actually are more wife-made men than self-made men."
Kerr family

Copyright © 2008 Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma
Last Modified 03/27/08
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