A World War I veteran, senator and Oklahoma industrialist, Kerrwas the first Legion past department commander to earn the Distinguished Service Medal in 1959.
"During his tenure in the Senate, Sen. Kerr has distinguished himself, not only in the field of veterans affairs, whose interest he has always had at heart, but has proven himself to be a leader in the economic and foreign policies of our government," Past National Commander Seaborn P. Collins said.
Calling himself the second comedian (after Bob Hope) to receive the Legion's medal, Kerr paid tribute to his fellow Legionnaires at the 41st National Convention. "Actually, the men and women of the Legion and the Auxiliary are the ones entitled to the Distinguished Service Award," he said. "It is but a symbol in recognition of the tremendous job that you do."
Kerr served as governor of Oklahoma from 1943 to 1947. Two years later, he began a 14-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he served until he died, and helped champion the causes of President John F. Kennedy.
A lawyer by trade, Kerr amassed his fortune in the Anderson-Kerr Drilling Co. and Kerr-McGee Oil Industries. He grew up in in the Southern Baptist Church, where he taught Sunday school, even while in public office. In the Senate, he was known for his background in Scripture.
There, he collaborated with the likes of Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson and others, while serving as Kennedy's "shadow leader" in mustering support for the moon program and other initiatives. The Arkansas River Navigation System, completed in 1971, was one of his major accomplishments for his region.
In his third Senate term, Kerr died of a heart attack at 66 in 1963, just months before the assassination of his friend, President Kennedy. The Cushing, Okla., Daily Citizen said, "If Will Rogers was Oklahoma's most loved citizen, then Kerr was its most powerful."
For more on Kerr,click here (http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/K/KE011.html).