Friday, February 16, 2018

Rep. Johnnie Turner Takes Her Leave

Veteran legislator announces her retirement at NAACP headquarters, expressing satisfaction that it occurs in the year of MLK50 commemorations.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 3:11 PM

click to enlarge Memphis State Rep. Johnnie Turner (foreground, left) announced her retirement from the legislature Friday at local NAACP headquarters. - JB
  • JB
  • Memphis State Rep. Johnnie Turner (foreground, left) announced her retirement from the legislature Friday at local NAACP headquarters.

Backed by a group of colleagues and friends and standing in the meeting room of the local NAACP chapter that she headed for many years as executive secretary, state Representative Johnnie Turner (D-District 85, Memphis) announced on Friday that she was retiring from the legislative seat she had occupied since 2010 when she succeeded her late husband, Representative Larry Turner after his unexpected death.

Embroidering the occasion with relevant memories of her lifetime in the service of civil rights causes, Turner noted that the NAACP meeting room had also once served as a bank where she had worked as a teller. That was a job she credited the NAACP with helping her get at a time when she had encountered potential controversy as a civil rights activist.

Turner spoke movingly of the discomfort she had felt from such artifacts of the Jim Crow era as separate white and “colored” drinking fountains (disdaining ever to drink from the latter) and the relegation of black passengers to seats in the back of Memphis buses. Such experiences became the motivation of her commitment to the NAACP and the cause of freedom.

She expressed satisfaction that her retirement coincided with MLK50, the year of official local observances in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was assassinated in Memphis 50 years ago while in town to support the aspirations of striking sanitation workers. Turner recounted the fact of having been in Washington for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and of returning there for periodic anniversary observances of that event ever since.

Both in the ceremony at NAACP headquarters and in a press release issued for thew occasion, Rep. Turner took special satisfaction from having successfully sponsored legislation last year tha created an Ad Hoc Task Force on Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes.

The release also contain a collection of encomia bestowed on Rep. Turner for her commitment and her lifetime of achevements. Excerpts follow:

“[H]er legacy is a list of accomplishments that wil last for decades”” Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), House Democratic Caucus chair.

“Rep. Johnnie Turner can truly be called the conscience of the House of Representatives”: House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh.

“Rep. Turner has never been afraid to stand up for the oppressed, the downtrodden, or the forgotten”: Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators chair, state Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis).

Rep. Turner declined to endorse a prospective successor to hder District 85 seat.

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