John Hosea Kerr, III passed away peacefully at Kitty Askins Hospice in Goldsboro on May 24th after a period of declining health.
John was born in Richmond, VA and raised in Warrenton, NC as the only child of John Hosea Kerr, Jr. and Mary Hinton Duke Kerr. He grew up in the family home with his parents and paternal grandparents, Congressman John H. Kerr, Sr. and Ella Foote Kerr. During most of his childhood, John’s grandfather served in the U.S. Congress while his father served in the North Carolina General Assembly, including service as the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.
John was educated in the public schools of Warrenton and graduated from John Graham High School in 1954. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which he graduated in 1958. As an undergraduate student, John was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and served as president of the Junior Class and of the Order of the Grail. In 1961 he received his law degree, with honors, from the UNC School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review and Order of the Coif.
In 1960 John married Sandra Moore Edgerton and, upon completion of law school, they settled in her hometown of Goldsboro. John joined the law firm of Taylor, Allen and Warren and practiced with the same firm, now known as Warren, Kerr, Walston, Taylor & Smith L.L.P., for the next 50 years. John’s practice focused on general civil and corporate law and throughout his career he and his firm had the good fortune of representing many of Eastern North Carolina’s most successful businesses and the families who built them. He was active and held leadership positions in the Wayne County, Eighth Judicial District and North Carolina Bar Associations.
John was a leader in his community as an active member of Madison Avenue Baptist Church, Jaycees, Rotary Club, Golden K., and the Elks Club. John served on numerous boards including the Wayne County Public Library, Wayne Memorial Building, Mount Olive College Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County and the local boards of North Carolina National Bank, Southern National Bank and Branch Banking and Trust. Among many honors, in 2008 John received the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award, which “recognizes noteworthy and extraordinary leadership in communities across the United States.”
John was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1986 where he served three terms before being elected to the North Carolina Senate in 1992. In the Senate he served as a member of the Appropriations, Commerce and Judiciary Committees, and as the Co-Chair of the Finance Committee and Revenue Laws Study Committee. During his 22 years of service in the General Assembly, John made a considerable impact on fiscal policy and economic development, and he played a key role in expanding and improving infrastructure across the State, including water, sewer, natural gas and roads. He also used his influence in the General Assembly to support many of the institutions which have contributed to the greatness of the State and the lives of its people, including the University of North Carolina System, the North Carolina Community College System, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Throughout his professional and political life, John devoted his talent, energy and influence to support the people and communities of Eastern North Carolina. He fought to meet the infrastructure needs of the region and was a champion of the public schools and community colleges, the agri-business community, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the state’s other military installations, and the volunteer fire and rescue associations. John’s leadership was instrumental in the creation of Global TransPark, the East Carolina University Dental School, the University of North Carolina Cancer Center, and the construction of the new Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.
John lived his life according to the Bible’s admonition that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48). He was motivated by a profound love of people and his desire to use his many gifts to make a positive difference in their lives. “Big John” never met a stranger and never failed to offer his help to anyone he met; no request for help was too big or too small and he always did his best to solve the problems of others.
Away from work John’s interests revolved around his family and in particular supporting his sons and grandchildren in their many activities. He was member of the The Rams Club and an avid supporter of the Tar Heel athletic programs. He was also a golfer and outdoorsman, and he treasured spending time with his sons and friends in Hyde County where he was a member of the Nomads of Mattamuskeet Hunting Club.
John was predeceased by his parents, his brother and sister-in-law, William H. and Ruth Edgerton Boyer, and nephew Charles Calvert Holt. John is survived by his wife Sandra, his sons John Hosea Kerr, IV (Ashley) and James Yancey Kerr, II (Frances) and four grandchildren whom he adored, John Hosea Kerr, V, Isabel Sedwick Kerr, James Yancey Kerr, III and Helen Edgerton Kerr. John is also survived by his sister-in-law, Sarah Edgerton Holt, and his beloved nieces Ruth Boyer Whitlock, Elizabeth Morrison Boyer, Lamont Boyer Farmer, Sarah Holt Cox, Hannah Lilly Holt and their families.
A memorial service will be held at Madison Avenue Baptist Church on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. with Rev. Dr. Robert Fulkerson officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Madison Avenue Baptist Church 300 S. Madison Avenue, Goldsboro, NC 27530, Kitty Askins Hospice, 107 Handley Park Court, Goldsboro, NC 27534 or the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County, 1401 Royall Avenue, Goldsboro, NC 27534.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.seymourfuneralhome.com.