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The Archivist: Dr. Charles W. Kerr helped to build Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church

Mary Phillips: During Tulsa's Race Riot in 1921, the pastor first tried to prevent the riot and later opened the doors of his church to shelter several hundred black women and children from the Greenwood District.
By Mary Phillips, For The Oklahoman Published: March 10, 2014

At the beginning of the 1941 movie “One Foot in Heaven,” a sweet film chronicling the life of early-day minister William Spence and his family as they coped with parishoners and changing times, several names of supporters of the film scroll by.

One of them, Dr. Charles W. Kerr listed Tulsa, Oklahoma, after his name.

Dr. Charles William Kerr had a long history with Oklahoma, before and after statehood.

Born of Scottish parents in Pennsylvania, he arrived in Edmond in 1898, newly married and newly graduated from McCormick Seminary in Chicago, to become the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.

He served until 1900, until receiving the call to become the pastor of Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church.

The church had less than 100 members, and Kerr became the first permanent Protestant Christian pastor in Tulsa.

By the time he retired in 1941, Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church was recognized as the second largest Presbyterian congregation in the country.

When Kerr died in 1951, Dr. Fred S. Clinton of Tulsa wrote about him in Volume 29 of the “Chronicles of Oklahoma” under Necologies:

“Dr. Kerr was a builder, not only of things spiritual for under his pastorate a new church building was erected on the corner of 7th and Boston Avenue in 1909; and in 1925 the addition of the beautiful auditorium was completed. Under his ministry four new Presbyterian churches were organized in Tulsa.

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