Born in Lincoln County, Oklahoma Territory, ROY JOSEPH TURNER moved to Oklahoma City after graduating from high school and attended Hill’s Business College there. He was a bookkeeper from 1911 to 1915 and a salesman from 1916, and then served as a private in the U.S. Army during World War I. He entered the real estate business after the war ended and went on to organize Harper-Turner Oil Company and to found the 10,000 acre Turner Ranch, establishing the Turner purebred Hereford cattle herd in 1935. Turner was a member of the Oklahoma City Board of Education for seven years before becoming governor. During his gubernatorial administration, divisions of accounts and budgets were created in the Executive Department that came to be regarded as one of the most efficient systems in the United States. Also while Turner was governor, the State Highway Department and State Planning and Resources Board were reorganized; a Board of Regents for State Colleges was established; the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was created; and segregation in higher education was ended in the state. Turner failed, however, in efforts to establish a merit system for state employees and to reform public education financing, neither of which won the state legislature’s approval. When the Democratic Party split over the 1948 election [leading to formation of the States Rights Party—known as Dixiecrats—by southern delegates opposed to Harry Truman’s civil rights platform], Turner refused to support fellow southern delegates to the Democratic National Convention who joined the Dixiecrats and remained loyal to the national Democratic Party. After leaving office, he returned to his oil and cattle investments and served as Chair of the State Highway Commission from 1959 until 1963.

SOURCES:

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 58. New York: James T. White & Company.

Oklahoma Governors Since Statehood