William D. Kerr

William Dabney Kerr, the son of Rev. John Rice Kerr and Sarah Henderson Kerr, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, March 4, 1808, and moved with his family to Kentucky in 1814. In 1823 his father was appointed superindentent of the newly established Institution for the Deaf and Dumb (Kentucky School for the Deaf) in Danville, Kentucky. As a youth, Kerr was mainly taught by his father, and had just entered Centre College, when in 1831 he was appointed assistant instructor at KSD, a position he held until 1851. Kerr had no formal training in teaching the hearing impaired, and probably learned from the school's other teacher, John A. Jacobs, who had studied at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1850 Kerr wrote friends in Fulton, Missouri, urging then, and others, to encourage the state legislature to provide for the education of the deaf. The state established the Missouri School for the Deaf in 1851 in Fulton, at that time a small community with a population of 500, and invited Kerr to become it's first superintendent. When he arrived, there was only one pupil in the school, but by the end of the year, the enrollment had grown to twenty-seven students. The Civil War forced the school to temporarily close, and Kerr bought a farm near Fulton, taking with him some of his pupils, whose education he continued at his home. Kerr resigned his position in February 1889 due to increasingly age and weakness, and died in his home in Fulton, Missouri, aged eighty-one years, on May 24, 1889. Kerr married Susan M. Buckles of Bowling Green, Kentucky, August 1, 1837.