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Robert S. Kerr Photograph by Mary Dean, 1954. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114948).


Kerr, Robert Samuel (11 September 1896–01 January 1963), oil executive and politician, was born in Indian territory, near present-day Ada, Oklahoma, the son of William Samuel Kerr, a farmer, clerk, and politician, and Margaret Eloda Wright. Kerr’s upbringing as a Southern Baptist had a profound influence on his life. Not only did his religious beliefs lead him to teach Sunday school and to shun alcohol throughout his adulthood, it also aided his political aspirations in a conservative state where Baptists were the single largest denomination....


Marland, Ernest Whitworth (08 May 1874–03 October 1941), oilman and politician, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred Marland, an English-born industrialist, and Sara McLeod, his Scottish-born wife. Educated in private schools, Marland graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1893. Too young to be admitted to the bar, Marland taught himself geology and went to the oil fields along the Pennsylvania–West Virginia border. There he made his first fortune in oil and just as quickly lost it when the panic of 1907 devastated the region’s small, independent producers. In 1908 Marland left for Oklahoma. Passing over the fields already developed in the state’s eastern counties, Marland ventured a hundred miles further west to the undulating plains near the village of Ponca City....


Sterling, Ross Shaw (11 February 1875–25 March 1949), oilman and politician, was born near Anahuac, Chambers County, Texas, the son of Benjamin Franklin Sterling, a storekeeper and farmer, and Mary Jane Bryan. He attended local public schools until 1887, dropping out after his mother’s death. Sterling then worked with his father, becoming store manager by his seventeenth birthday. In 1896 he struck out on his own, freighting produce across Galveston Bay to the city of Galveston. He married schoolteacher Maud Abbie Gage in October 1898; the couple had five children....