Grover White “Buddy” Turner, Jr. was an influential member of the Arkansas House of Representatives who helped shape state policy throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
G.W. Buddy Turner as he appeared in the 1973 Speaker Archive. Turner was the Speaker of the House during the 69th General Assembly.
Grover White Turner Jr. was destined to be a mover and a shaker.
He started early. Born on August 15, 1923, he grew up in Rison, Arkansas, where he helped his family on the farm his father had bought during the Great Depression. The young Turner boasted an impressive work ethic. In addition to picking and chopping cotton on the farm, Turner worked at the family store, eventually becoming an accomplished meat cutter. He didn’t stop there. By the time he graduated from Rison High School, Turner had developed his own business, buying and selling brass and copper.
After graduation, Turner went into the service, like so many young men of his generation. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served as an electrical specialist on the B-29 during World War II. In his spare time, he perfected his boxing skills and earned a reputation as one of the military’s “most tenacious amateur boxers, having never lost a bout in three years,” a status he proudly trumpeted years later in his campaign material.
After the war, he returned to Arkansas and earned a degree in business at what later became Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. He went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
With his college days behind him, Turner began working as a teacher and a coach, and spent time as superintendent of the high school in Tinsman. He moved to Pine Bluff to take on the role as principal of Sam Taylor School. He loved the community and the community loved him. His service was recognized when he was chosen as Pine Bluff’s Young Man of the Year in 1958.
In 1960, Turner turned his name recognition into votes when he was elected for his first term in the Arkansas House of Representatives. At the same time, he started a successful business career. He founded Turner and Co., an independent insurance agency and realty company, and was co-founder of the Pine Bluff National Bank, the South Arkansas Savings and Loan, the Pine Bluff Title Co., and First Arkansas Title Insurance Co. Turner was also active in the Lakeside United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff and the First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs.
Turner made his mark in the Arkansas House of Representatives. He served until 1993, including a stint as speaker of the House from 1973 to 1975. He served on many committees over the years, including the Joint Budget Committee and the Rules Committee (which he chaired), but it was in his work in the area of education that drew the most attention. Turner was instrumental in drafting and passing much of the positive legislation dealing with education. Upon Turner’s announcement of his retirement, Governor Bill Clinton observed, “The children of Arkansas owe a debt of gratitude to Buddy for all his hard work in the Legislature.” Most notable was the School Cooperative Act, a law that he co-authored, which permitted small schools to share teachers in subjects such as science and math.
Late in his legislative career, Turner and his wife bought a home on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. They lived there permanently after his retirement from the House. Turner died on August 6, 1998, in Hot Springs after a lengthy battle with cancer. He is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Pine Bluff.
Source: Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Image Credit: ArkansasHouse.org