Prof. Turner was born in the District of Columbia on October 25, 1850. His mother Sarah Turner Mercer, was a devoted Christian, rendering loyal and consecrated service to her parents in the foundation of the M. E. Church in Washington, D. C. As a boy, young Turner attended private school in Washington before the establishment of public schools for colored children. He had not proceeded far, however, before the Civil War broke out in all its fury and the boy became a dispatch carrier and messenger to Gen. Lewis B. Parson in the Transportation Division of the Quarter-master General’s office, and was kept busy till the close of hostilities. He was the first colored boy to carry newspapers on the streets of Washington. – In 1866 he went with his mother to Springfield, Mass., where he continued his studies. While living in New England, young Turner was persuaded to go to Lincoln University, where he studied for two years and finished the preparatory course. At the end of two years, he went South as a missionary and teacher, commissioned by the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pa. He opened a school in Granville County, N. C., and taught there till 1869. It is hard for the present generation to realize conditions as they existed during the years immediately following the war. Conditions were chaotic—a new civilization was in the making. Social standards were just taking shape, the religious life of the race had not yet crystalized into denominational organizations and ideas of law and order were more or less hazy. Into this atmosphere came the ambitious young teacher from the North. He was more than a school teacher, he was a pioneer, seeking to blaze a way out of the wilderness of ignorance, superstition and poverty for his people. He was counsellor, guide and protector in many mat ters of business and family life. He soon won the confidence and esteem of the people. In 1869 he returned North with the idea of completing his course at Lincoln. While in Washington, he was induced by Gen. O. O. Howard to take a clerkship for half time in the Freedman’s Bureau and enter Howard University. Three years later he completed the academic and scientific courses, and in the same year became reporter for “The Daily Chronicle.”
The class of ’72 developed a excellent body of business and professional men and women. -In 1873 he returned to North Carolina and organized the Franklin Seminary near Franklinton. Many of the most capable religious and educational leaders of the race in that and other states laid the foundation of their education in this school and have borne willing testimony during the years of Prof. Turner’s sacrificing work as a teacher.
Prof. Turner was a leader in the movement which put Hon. H. P. Cheatham in Congress from the Second District. In that year also he secured an appointment in the Census Bureau and moved to Washington in order that he might give his children the educational advantages of Washington schools. During the Spanish American War, he was confidential mailing clerk to the Post Master General, the First Assistant Post Master General, and the Assistant Attorney-General of the Post Office Department. His term had been extended as an acknowledgement of twenty-three years of faithful and efficient service. Among the secret orders, Prof. Turner belongs to the Masons, the GUOOF, and the Pythians. He is a member of the Lincoln Temple Congregational Church in which he has been active for years. His work brought him in contact with the leadership of both races, North and South. He has numerous autograph letters from men like Vice-President Henry Wilson, Sen. Chas. Sumner, of Mass., Hon. S. J. Bowen, Garrett Smith, Generals Grant, Sherman, Howard, and Butler, Bishops Newman, Payne and Handy, and many others. The organizations which he has founded have been not for his own profit, but for the benefit of his fellow men. Among those in which he has been active may be mentioned the Farmers’ Alliance of N. C.; the Industrial Savings Bank and the Federation of Men’s Church Clubs of the District of Columbia. His identity with the True Reformers and his contributions to “The Reformer” when that organ had a wide circulation added strength to that great order. He was a delegate from Thomas H. Wright Lodge No. 9607 to the Twentieth B. M. C., New York City, September 13-20, 1920. This is the highest legislative tribunal of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, composed of representative men and women of the United States, Canada and the British Isles. Many complicated questions were settled at this session, and the principles of F. L. and T. firmly perched on its banner. The Hon. Edward H. Morris was re-elected Grand Master, proclaiming, “Malice to none, but charity to all.” Prof. Turner is the founder and president of the Federa tion of Men’s Church Clubs of the District of Columbia, which formed a permanent organization August 11, 1919. The object is to extend the bounds of Christian work among the citizens of the District, the general uplift of humanity touching chiefly the civic, moral and religious sides of life upon the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity. He is also vice-president of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia and P. G. C. of the Knights of Pythias and Treasurer of the Crispus Attucks and Home Benefit Relief Association. He is also Trustee of the John Marshall Harlan Relief Association. On February 13, 1921, he assisted in the organization of the Cliff Rock Beneficial Association with 350 members which in six months grew to a membership of more than two thousand. Prof. Turner believed in the all round symmetrical development which will include the head, the heart and the hand. He is himself an excellent example of what that means in the life of the individual. Prof. Turner has recently been appointed a member of the Committee on management, Twelfth St. Branch, young Men’s Christian association of Washington. He is but a testament to what can be accomplished through the eternal bond of friendship love and truth…..