Oklahoma Governors 1947-1951: Roy J. Turner (1894-1971)
Native to the Oklahoma land, this son of a pioneer homesteader and livery stable owner rose from rural Lincoln County. A boy when his father died, Turner sacrificed his college plans to support his mother and family. He did not even finish high school. He possessed entrepreneurial talent, however, and oil investments rescued him from financial ruin after his large real estate holdings failed.
He also developed a prize-winning Murray County Hereford cattle ranch. Turner determined to pay forward his opportunities and blessings. He shouldered a lifelong leadership role in supporting the Future Farmers of America, 4-H Clubs, and other efforts to train and encourage the state’s agricultural workers.
He parleyed his record of leadership in the Oklahoma City Public Schools to a successful 1946 campaign for governor. No other person stood more responsible for navigating the proposed Oklahoma City-Tulsa “superhighway” to completion than Turner. “He spearheaded an enormous private sector bonds campaign, federal economic support, and a massive right-of-way effort, all while fending off rural court challenges and weathering a Korean War-caused delay of road construction supplies.”
In the end, he made many enemies in order to provide Oklahoma and the nation with the modern masterpiece that others chose to name the Turner Turnpike in his honor. They likely cost him the 1954 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to Robert S. Kerr.
His legacy to Oklahoma, however, lives on in many ways. They include his namesake roadway, strengthening the abandonment laws protecting children, lowering the state income tax, restraining a state welfare program that had catapulted to the highest in the nation, and accelerating both highway and rural route construction, while improving the efficiency of the highway and tax commissions. His legacy also extends to the public schools of Oklahoma, in consolidating inefficient school districts, while securing free textbooks for public school children and expanding vocational educational opportunities for veterans.
Perhaps the cherry on the sundae of Roy Turner’s enduring legacy was his unparalleled leadership to win the Cowboy Hall of Fame (now National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) for Oklahoma City and the state.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
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