Thomas Turner - Negro League Baseball

Thomas Turner

Thomas Turner

Born June 22, 1915 in Olive Branch, Tennessee., the ninth of thirteen children.  The family moved to  Ohio where Tom graduated from Glendale High School in 1934 and went on to attend Tuskegee Institute on a football scholarship.  Before being inducted into the U.S. Army, Tom played shortstop for the Cincinnati Stars, the only black team in the Indiana/Ohio Baseball League. 

Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940, Tom was stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona where a hearing loss kept him from WWII overseas military action.  On the base, Tom applied his leadership skills to organize competitive women's sports and recreational teams and he played first base on the Special Command Unit  (SCU) team.  The SCU team played all over the Southwest and Northern Mexico.  As a result, Tom's reputation garnered an offer to play for the Hermosillo, Sonora team in the Liga de Pacifica following the war.  There he met his future wife, Alicia Prado, mother of his three children.  They returned to the U.S. where Tom played for the Chicago American Giants in the Negro League.  With the birth of his first child, Tom had to leave the League to find better paying work.  Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier that same year.   

Even though he was no longer a part of organized baseball, Tom's love for the game prompted him to organize the first women's softball team in Lincoln Heights, Ohio - the all black-town where he lived with his family until the 1960's.  Tom participated in the Civil Rights Movement, attending Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963 and two years later he drove from Ohio to Selma, Alabama for the Selma to Montgomery March. 

Divorce split the family, and Tom became the single parent to his children.  He remarried Betty Jackson several years later and moved to Seattle where he worked for the City's Parks and Recreation Department.  In his tenure, he transformed several neighborhood centers into models of community activities that included award-winning women's softball teams, hot food programs and theatre and arts events.

Tom and Betty Turner returned to their home turf following Tom's retirement.  These years have proved most productive for Tom who has given freely of his time and resources to the young people and the seniors in his community.  The years also brought renewed recognition for the unheralded athletic talents for all former Negro League players.  Tom's family will celebrate their 65th annual family reunion this year and Tom will celebrate his 95th birthday!



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