Kerr, Robert A. (1842–1912)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: November 18, 2020

Robert A. Kerr, political leader, state legislator, and civic leader in Bastrop, Texas, was probably born in December 1842 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a White father, known as Major A. Kerr, and a Black mother. He went to Port Lavaca with his father around 1855. He was taught by his father and his father's sister and may have worked as a free Black barber in San Antonio before the Civil War. Sources suggest that he left San Antonio after allegations that he assisted slaves in escape attempts. During the Civil War he reportedly worked for his father as a shipping clerk in the Port Lavaca area. Kerr probably moved to Victoria before 1872, when Texas Republicans named him an alternate delegate to the Republican national convention. He also served as an election judge for San Patricio, Refugio, Calhoun, and Victoria counties. By 1880 he had moved to Bastrop County. He won election to a seat in the Texas House of Representatives for the Seventeenth Legislature, which met in 1881. There he served on the Military Affairs Committee and criticized the convict lease system. He proposed an unsuccessful amendment to a bill designed to compensate slaves who had lost arms or legs while assisting their masters in military service. Although Kerr won his legislative seat as a member of the Greenback party, he returned to the Republican party in 1882 but failed to win reelection. He was chosen an alternate delegate by Republicans for the 1892 national convention. He served for a time on the Bastrop County School Board, where he helped establish a high school for Black students. He worked as a barber and also served as an assistant bookkeeper in the Halser Store in Bastrop. He and his wife, Sarah, were the parents of an adopted son. Kerr died on January 12, 1912, and was buried in the Fairview Cemetery, Bastrop.

J. Mason Brewer, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (Dallas: Mathis, 1935; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1970). Bill Moore, Bastrop County, 1691–1900 (Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1977). Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868–1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985). Lawrence D. Rice, The Negro in Texas, 1874–1900 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971).


  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul M. Lucko, “Kerr, Robert A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
November 18, 2020

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