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.
“Always a busy man, Dr. Kerr ministering to his growing church and to need whenever and wherever he found it, in tents, in covered wagons, in the hills, or on the prairies of the surrounding country. With sympathetic understanding for anyone in need or distress, he was ready to render every service possible.”
During Tulsa's Race Riot in 1921, Kerr 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.
“Dr. Kerr was a Tulsa Booster and Builder. He was one of the men who helped bring Kendall College to Tulsa in 1907. This College later became the University of Tulsa, and Dr. Kerr was an active trustee othe institution for forty-three years.”
In 1932, Kerr served as moderator for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A., and in 1934 he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
The Oklahoman July 19, 1951 reported after Kerr's death that “During his 50 years here, he married more than 2,400 couples and preached more than 2,280 funerals.”
Clinton ended his eulogy with “Dr. Kerr was Tulsa's longest and best loved pastor, a power for good in the community with an undying devotion to home, country and God.”