to Tulsa on Saturday, February 10, 1900, to assume the Pastorate
of the First Presbyterian Church,
by 1921 Dr. Charles W.
Kerr was the most senior and best known minister in Tulsa.
Descendants of Calvinist Pennsylvania abolitionists,
'Free Soilers', participants
in the pre-Civil War underground railway chain, and
Volunteers during the Civil War,
the Kerrs brought their Northern,
Unionist, anti-slavery convictions with them to Tulsa
-- where they
were in the distinct minority of a town settled primarily by
Southern rural poor whites who had come to grab 'free' land from
the Indian Nations.
the early years of the 20th century Rev. and Mrs. Kerr had
witnessed many outrages committed against Tulsa's oppressed
Black population --
castrations, beatings, mutilations, brandings
both the Tulsa Police and ordinary 'T-Towne' Tulsa Citizens.
When Rev. and Mrs. Kerr
protested against these racialist outrages, they were
merely laughed at by the Police and City Officials as 'Northern
Yankee Nigger Lovers.'
Oklahoma public officials
consistently refuse to enforce the laws protecting the
rights of Blacks. Rev.
Kerr often noted that horses, dogs, and cats received more
effective protection under 'cruelty to animals' laws than did
on his Scots
Presbyterian Calvinist convictions in the 'equality
of all believers', Rev.
Charles W. Kerr early made friends with Greenwood's Black
Pastors and often gave them financial aid and material support
without the knowledge of his own all-white
other white 'Christian' Pastors refused to associate with the
Greenwood Pastors and even publicly wiped off their hands on
their pants after shaking hands with a Greenwood Pastor --
out of fear of getting 'social disease' from touching a
Black: Tulsa 'Christianity'. Because
of his open Christian brotherhood towards them, the Black
Pastors called Dr.
Kerr 'Brother Kerr'
or 'Brother Charlie' while they addressed the other white Tulsa
ministers merely as
Dr. Charles W. Kerr had the earned reputation as being a friend
of the Blacks, the Greenwood Pastors telephoned Dr. Kerr at
Tulsa’s historical Old
Manse on the evening of 31st May 1921 and requested him to go
down to the Courthouse and to disperse the growing lynch mob
before the armed Black Veterans from Greenwood arrived.
Making pastoral sick calls all day,
Dr. Kerr had not been downtown.
These Greenwood ministers insisted that the accused Black
youth, Dick Rowland, was absolutely
innocent of the
crime of 'rape' for which he had been falsely accused by The
also declared that Tribune Publisher Richard Lloyd Jones
had deliberately incited the lynching of this youth in his
editorial 'To Lynch A Nigger Tonight'. Could Dr. Kerr
do anything to save
this innocent youth from being lynched ?
Greenwood Pastors told Dr. Kerr,
'Brother Kerr, if anyone
can prevent this lynching,
that man is you
!' However, Mrs.
Kerr was afraid that if Dr. Kerr attempted to disperse the
Courthouse lynch mob, that he would be lynched along with the
Black youth --
a common fate for persons attempting to interfere with a
rabid lynch mob. Dr.
Kerr felt that, 'Sometimes a minister is called upon to actually
up to what he preaches.'
To do otherwise would be cowardly and the denial of his
entire Scots Presbyterian
Calvinist tartan-clad heritage
brought over from Bonnie Scotland.
their son, Hawley , was the same age(19) as the falsely accused
Black youth, Dr. Kerr replied to Mrs. Kerr’s
concern about his great danger in confronting a howling
lynch mob, 'What if that young man was Hawley?
Wouldn't you want some other minister to try , at least, to save him from being lynched?
The fact that this young man in the Courthouse gaol is
Coloured and Hawley is white makes absolutely no difference
to Jesus: Whom
did The Master say was our Neighbour?
That young man in the gaol at the top of the Courthouse
who is now about to be lynched is as
much a son of The Father as is Hawley.'
Kerr then asked his wife, 'Would you have me act as the Priest
and Levite in the Parable and pass
by this young man or do you want me to act as the Good
Samaritan to try and save this young fellow?
You married me precisely because I was going to spread
the Gospel and witness to Jesus' Truth.
Do you want me to turn my coat on Jesus and His Gospel?
Would you have me be anything less
than what Jesus expects me to be as a Scots Presbyterian
minister of His Gospel? Or
would you rather have me act like
agreed that if Dr. Kerr was to remain faithful to his
Gospel Commission, he
must act in this situation as Jesus was calling him to so do --
to save the innocent Black youth at the Courthouse gaol
from being lynched by racialist 'Green
It is agreed that Hawley was to drive Dr. Kerr to
Courthouse but to remain safely in the car at all times.
leaving, the whole family knelt together --
Dr. and Mrs. Charles W. Kerr, Hawley, and Margaret
-- held hands
and prayed together for a long time :
Margaret, age 16, cried
'This may be the last time we'll ever pray together again
as a Christian family.'
parting Dr. Kerr told Mrs. Kerr, 'I believe that the lynch mob
at the Courthouse will respect my character as a Minister of the
Gospel. But should
they not, we will all meet merrily
knowing that we have passed this 'test' to which The Master is
calling me to meet this night.'
Hawley plead, 'Dad, don't do it!' Putting on his trademark
Prince Albert frock coat (the dress of formal Protestant
ministers) and picking up his well-thumbed bible,
Dr. Charles W.
Kerr merely commanded, 'Come, Son, Jesus is waiting for me at