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Lorin Edgar Kerr papers

Call Number: MS 785

Scope and Contents

The Kerr Papers consist of twenty linear feet of correspondence, statistical reports, organization files, and reprints and other writings, organized in four series: UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, WRITINGS, and PERSONAL PAPERS. Approximately one third of the papers concern the U. M.W.A. Department of Occupational Health and date from 1967 to 1978. The remainder of the papers extends from 1948 to 1978, with a few items dating from 1943 to 1948.

Series I, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA, is organized in two sections, Correspondence and Subject Files and Welfare and Retirement Fund. The first section consists of Kerr's office correspondence as director of the Department of Occupational Health. Most of the section is arranged alphabetically by name or subject; the interoffice correspondence is placed at the end of the section and is arranged chronologically.

The bulk of the correspondence extends from the establishment of the Department of Occupational Health in June 1969 through 1978, although a few letters date from 1967 and 1968. The alphabetical correspondence includes exchanges with associates in public health and other fields, elected officials, miners and their families, and professional and labor organizations. Also included is extensive correspondence with the United States Departments of Labor and of Health, Education, and Welfare (D.H.E.W.). The D.H.E.W. files contain a large amount of general correspondence covering health legislation, social security, and health-related conferences; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health folder (158) contains material of special value regarding health standards. The alphabetical files include some correspondence with colleagues in the union and in the Department of Occupational Health; there are cross references to the material in the more voluminous chronological interoffice correspondence files.

For the most part the interoffice correspondence files contain material relating to the daily operation of the department, including circulated memoranda, press releases, and pamphlets regarding facilities. personnel, and equipment. The files do include some items of interest, however. A variety of letters and other materials concerning the Medical Advisory Committee of the Department of Occupational Health reflects the various issues which concerned the department in its early days. Also, the Interoffice Files occasionally focuses on such subjects as the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (1970 Jan 14, Mar 24), on health and safety disputes arising in the mines (1974 Jul 19), and on issues surrounding the operation of the union's hospitals and clinics (1970 Mar 4, 1973 Feb 13, 1975 Nov 11). The files also include occasional letters with U.M.W.A. presidents William A. (Tony) Boyle, and Arnold Miller.

The Welfare and Retirement Fund section is made up of a variety of statistical reports for the fund dating from 1948 to 1968, including an extensive run of Medical Care Statistics (1952-1958).

Series II, OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, contains files from Kerr's participation in professional organizations and as a visiting professor at Howard University. The series dates from 1944 to 1977 and is organized in six sections: American Public Health Association, District of Columbia Department of Public Health, Public Health Council, District of Columbia Public Health Association, Group Health Association of America, Howard University, and National Institutes on Rehabilitation and Health Services.

The American Public Health Association section is the largest in the series and is divided into General Papers and Committees and Sections. The General Papers are most extensive for the 1970's, when Kerr served as president (1974) and executive board member; they include correspondence, minutes, and other material. Much of the correspondence covers routine administrative matters, but some letters concern Kerr's efforts to promote stronger positions on radiation hazards, occupational respiratory diseases, air pollution, health regulations for farm workers, and other occupational and environmental issues.

The District of Columbia Department of Public Health, Public Health Advisory Council section contains the files kept by Kerr during his tenure as chairman of the Council (1966-1968). In addition to general correspondence, minutes, and committee files, the section's "historical" file on the implementation of Medicaid in the District contains correspondence, bills, newsclippings, and statements by Kerr.

The Group Health Association of America section extends from 1952 to 1968 and is of special interest. Kerr was an officer and active member of the American Labor Health Association from 1952 forward. The Background Material subsection contains information on the A.L.H.A. and on its merger with the Group Health Federation of America in May 1959, which created the G.H.A.A.. The General Papers contain correspondence, and minutes from Kerr's appointment as a member of the board of directors and executive board and from his term as president (1966-1968). They also include subject correspondence regarding legislation and other issues. The Conferences subsection contains an extensive run of Proceedings of the Group Health Institute.

Series III, WRITINGS, is arranged chronologically (1943-1978), and is made up of reprints, United Mine Workers Journal columns, texts of speeches and Congressional testimony, and other writings by Kerr. The files also include some related correspondence and reference material. The texts of Kerr's testimony before Congressional committees are of special interest. In addition to frequent statements regarding black lung disease the texts cover a variety of topics, including national health insurance, the budgets for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and health standards.

Series IV, PERSONAL PAPERS, consists of a few folders of correspondence, most concerning personal financial matters, and newsclippings regarding Kerr's activities and appointments. It also includes one folder of biographical information and photographs of Kerr's wife, Goldie Krantz.

The Kerr Papers were donated to Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, by Dr. Kerr in two accessions, one in 1977 and the other in 1980. The papers are part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection, which also includes the papers of Kerr's wife, Goldie Krantz (Ms. Group 780), and of several of his associates in medical care and health policy.


  • 1941-1981


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Lorin Edgar Kerr has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Lorin E. Kerr, 1977-1980, and of Alan Derickson, 1998.


Arranged in four series and one addition: I. United Mine Workers of America, 1948-1978. II. Other Professional Activities, 1944-1978. III. Writings, 1943-1978. IV. Personal Papers, 1962-1978.


20.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, statistical reports, and organization files, writings and printed matter, which document Lorin Kerr's work in the United Mine Workers Department of Occupational Health. Kerr's active participation in professional organizations, such as the American Public Health Association, District of Columbia Public Health Organization, and the Group Health Association of America, and his term as visiting professor at Howard University are also documented in the papers. The papers relating to the American Public Health Association, where Kerr served as president (1974) and executive board member are particularly voluminous and include correspondence, minutes, memoranda and clippings on occupational and environmental issues. These papers form part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.

Biographical / Historical

Lorin Edgar Kerr has been a leader in the field of occupational health for more than four decades. Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1909, he was educated at the University of Toledo (B.A., 1931) and the University of Michigan (M.D., 1935; M.S.P.H., 1939). From 1937 to 1944 he served in a number of municipal and county public health departments in Ohio and Michigan. Kerr joined the United States Public Health Service in 1944, first in the War Food Administration and later in the Industrial Hygiene Division. While with the Industrial Hygiene Division he provided consultant services for labor unions which were then beginning to develop their own medical care programs.

In October 1948 Kerr joined the newly formed Welfare and Retirement Fund of the United Mine Workers of America, accepting an appointment as an area medical administrator in Morgantown, West Virginia. From 1951 to 1969 he served as assistant to the medical director of the Welfare and Retirement Fund. While with the fund Kerr developed the U.M.W.A. Department of Occupational Health, the first occupational medical program to be established by a major labor union. He was appointed as the first director of the department in 1969, a position he has continued to hold.

Kerr's work with the United Mine Workers had an important impact on legislation and on the medical and public health professions, and it has contributed to a national awareness of the significance of environmental and occupational health standards. Occupational dust disease, especially coal workers' pneumonoconiosis (black lung), was one of Kerr's major concerns from the beginning of his employment with the Welfare and Retirement Fund, and it became his primary responsibility after his appointment as director of the Department of Occupational Health. He recognized that respiratory impairment in coal miners is attributable to coal dust, even though black lung, unlike other diseases, is not always verifiable through pathological tests. By seeking recognition of, and compensation for, black lung disease he was responsible for helping to create a much broader definition of the relationship between occupation and disease. Largely through Kerr's efforts black lung became recognized as a disease entity, and he played an active role in the passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and its amendment in 1972. The 1969 act created a black lung compensation program for coal miners, and the 1972 amendment extended benefits to all miners with fifteen or more years of service who suffered respiratory impairment, whether or not pneumonoconiosis was pathologically verifiable.

In addition to his service with the United Mine Workers, Kerr advocated and supported the development of occupational and environmental health programs through a variety of other activities. He held an appointment as a visiting professor at Howard University College of Medicine from 1952 to 1976; he has participated actively in the American Public Health Association (president, 1974), the Group Health Association of America (president, 1966-1968), and other professional medical care organizations. Since 1970 he has served on the Advisory Council to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare on Coal Mine Health Research and has appeared frequently before Congressional committees as an advocate and expert witness on occupational and environmental health issues.

Guide to the Lorin Edgar Kerr Papers
Under Revision
compiled by R. Joseph Anderson, Nancy Robertson, and Alan Hoffman
May 1998
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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