James Lee Kerr III was born on May 27, 1946 in Corpus Christi, Texas to a family with a long tradition of service to the United States Navy and roots in Texas dating back to 1822. Kerr’s father’s deployments with the Navy allowed young James views of many countries throughout the world including the Philippine Islands and Norway. He attended Rice University in Houston, Texas as well as the American University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in archaeology and ancient history, and from which he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree. From 1971 through 1974, Kerr attended the Medical College of Virginia. While in the United States Navy, Kerr was promoted from the enlisted ranks to a rating as a Commissioned Officer, and later appointment as a Medical Administrative Officer, specializing in Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Warfare Defense.
James L. Kerr III also served his country during the Vietnam War and his final shipboard assignment was aboard a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Due to severe health issues, Kerr accepted a disability retirement from active duty in October of 1984.
By the end of that year, James L. Kerr III and his family moved to Dallas, Texas where he accepted a position as an Administrator of the Radiology Department at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Kerr possessed a brilliant and gifted mind that pursued a wide range of interests, such as photography, ancient history, aviation, archeology, anthropology, astronomy, and music. He played piano in a variety of styles ranging from classical music to jazz as well as performing as a guest pianist in a televised show of the world famous musician and composer André Previn during the latter’s tenure with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
Kerr’s great interest in World War I aviation led him to join both the American and British chapter of the Cross and Cockade Journal. He was one of the founding members of the League of World War I Aviation Historians that regularly met at The University of Texas at Dallas, with which he held many positions such as treasurer and editor. Kerr played a crucial role in successfully launching Over the Front magazine. He also wrote for the magazine specializing in k.u.k. Austro-Hungarian and Italian aviation, as well as an award winning three part article titled Caporetto or Silvio Scaroni.
Kerr’s health conditions deteriorated significantly in his later years and he died on July 30, 1989 at the young age of 43 leaving behind his wife Bobbie and eleven children ages 3 through 17, out of which six were adopted during their marriage. George H. Williams, Jr. characterized him in his eulogy as a “resolute, able and brilliant man, but his true, pure legacy is his family. He loved them all. Gentle people, he was my friend.”