Skip to main content

James Wilson Kerr Papers

Identifier: DC057

Scope and Contents

The folders labeled "Committees -" contains information on the International Association of Fire Chiefs (Kerr was Chairman), the National Academy of Science, and the Department of Commerce. Kerr did research on fire and fire equipment for each of these offices. The correspondence files contain mostly letters associated with various places where Kerr was invited to speak. The file folder marked "Explorers Club" contains information regarding Kerr's membership in this Club from 1969-1989 and several copies of the club's constitution and by-laws. The file folder marked "Gamma Sigma Epsilon" contains copies of The Ray publication which was produced for this honorary chemistry fraternity on the Davidson College campus. Kerr has marked on the front of each copy where he is mentioned in the copies. Kerr is an avid stamp collector of Korean stamps. The file folder marked "Korean Stamp Collection" contains a copy "Korean Kingdom and Empire Philatelic Catalog and Handbook" as written by Kerr as well as correspondence and other printed materials involvoing his collection. There then follows a number of folders containing copies of various papers written by Kerr. The papers' titles are listed. A copy of Kerr's dissertation on "Technology Transfer at Local Government Level" is located here. There also is an interesting paper on historic Fire Disasters such as the Chicago Fire, the San Fransico Fire, etc. with accompanying pictures. In addition, several of the papers contain information on nuclear war. The file folder marked "Photographs" contains two photographs of Kerr in his mid-40's. There is a thick folder entitled "Book Reviews." Kerr is an prolific reader and writes book reviews for several magazines including the Explorers Magazine. The files entitled "Publications" contain copies of several of Kerr's printed materials. He wrote extensively on the eruption of Mount St. Helen's and copies of his articles are located here. Kerr also wrote reviews of restuarants in the Washington, D.C. area. Copies of his reviews are located here, although he wrote these reviews anonymously and we do not know which resuarants he actually reviewed. Kerr was involved in the controversy over whether or not home owners should display the number of their house in script or numerical numbers. A copy of his argument for numerical numbers is located in the file folder marked "Script House Numbers." The files labeled "Literary Materials" contain handwritten articles, book reviews and letters to the editor. In the Davidsoniana Room in Case , the following books authored by James W. Kerr are located: Practical Experiences of Fire Protection Services, Part I and II. June 1966. Institute for Defense Analyses, Economic and Political Studies Division. Office of Civil Defense. James W. Kerr, Directore, Support Systems Research Division. Radiological Defense: The Principles of Military Defense against Atomic Weapons. Vol. II. Nov. 1951. Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Study of Civil Defense Organizations in Friendly Nations. Sept. 1963. Stanford Research Institute. By James W. Kerr, Office of Civil Defense. Mount St. Helen's Scientific Workshop, Nov. 13-14, 1980. Federal Emergency Management Agency. James W. Kerr, Editor and Workshop Coordinator. Field Notes on World War II German Fire Experience. Oct. 1965. Stanford Research Institute. James W. Kerr, Office of Civil Defense. Nuclear Weapons Effects in a Forest Environment. July 1971. DoD Nuclear Information and Analysis Center. By James W. Kerr, Office of Civil Defense.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1989


Biographical / Historical

James Wilson Kerr was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 21, 1921. He spent his childhood in Korea with his missionary parents. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Davidson College in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. While at Davidson, he was an active member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon honorary chemical fraternity and a member of ROTC. After graduating from Davidson, Kerr obtained his master's degree from New York University in 1948. He married Mary Thomas Montgomery on February 25, 1945 and they had four children. He served at Fort Brag, North Carolina in the Electronics, Research and Testing division from 1946-51. He then moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to serve in the Special Weapons Development Office of the U.S. Government from 1953-57. He was named Assistant Director of Research for the Assistant Secretary of Defense of the Civil Defense Branch in 1962. He eventually was selected as the Director of Support Systems Research for the Office of Civil Defense of the Office of the Secretary of the Army. In this position, he was responsible for the direction of research and development in Civil Defense organization, warning, communications, radiological monitoring, emergency medical care, rescue, fire and damage control, and reduction of vulnerablity. He wrote extensively on nuclear war and the eruption of Mount St. Helen's.


1.46 Linear Feet (4 boxes)



Physical Location

Carrel Storage

D-Room Case

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Kerr, James Wilson

Processing Information

Processed on Dec-97

James Wlson Kerr Papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections Repository