Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sheadrick Bond Turner (1869-1927)

Portrait from the Illinois Blue Book, 1921-22 edition.

    A six term member of the Illinois State House of Representatives, Sheadrick Bond Turner was a native of Louisiana prior to his removal to the "Land of Lincoln" in the mid-1880s. Born and raised in the parish of West Feliciana, Turner's birth occurred on July 12, 1869, being the son of Hector and Souvenis Turner. While the origins of his name remain undetermined, it can be surmised that he was named in honor of Shadrach Bond (1773-1832), a former Congressman and the first Governor of the state of Illinois.
   Little could be found on Sheadrick Turner's early life in Louisiana, and by 1885 he is recorded as being a resident of Springfield, Illinois. A resident of that city from 1885-99, Turner entered into the world of publishing during his residency there, becoming the proprietor of two newspapers,  The State Capital and Illinois Idea. A graduate of the Illinois College of Law, Turner would later remove to Chicago, where he would continue to publish his newspapers as well as practice law. 
    Through the succeeding years, Turner's newspapers gained a reputation as being the "leading weekly publication in Illinois and the Northwest for the moral, economic and industrial benefits for the negro race." Turner's stewardship of these papers is mentioned as being a launching pad for his political career and in November 1914 he won election as a Republican to the Illinois State House of Representatives, defeating Progressive candidate John H. Taylor by a vote of 6, 659 to 2, 726.
   Following his freshman term in the legislature (1915-17) Turner wasn't a candidate for reelection. In 1918  he re-entered political life and won a second term in the house, besting Socialist Party nominee C.W. Howorth by a vote of  5, 978 to 305. Turner would be returned to the legislature on four more occasions and during his first two terms was a member of the judiciary committee and is mentioned as having "introduced legislation to discourage the organization of the Ku Klux Klan", as well as having sponsored "an appropriation bill to provide $35,00 for the investigation of bomb-throwing." 
  In addition to the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, Turner gained wide press in 1919 as a leading foe of a "Race Commission Bill", then up for a vote in the 51st session of the assembly.  In its August 30, 1919 edition, the Salt Lake City Broad Ax reported that Turner "strenuously opposed" the bill and was "instrumental in conducting a successful campaign" that saw the bill go down to defeat. As Turner himself stated in the Broad Ax,
"There are no commissions for the Poles. Serbians, Croatians, or any of the other nationalities that dwells underneath the Stars and Stripes and why therefore should there be one for the Negro, when even handed justice and fair play is the one and only solution for the racial troubles of out country."
                                                    Sheadrick B. Turner, from the 1927-29 Illinois Blue Book.

  On November 2, 1926, Sheadrick Turner was elected to his sixth term in the assembly, garnering 11, 411 votes. He would not live to complete this term, as he died in office on September 30, 1927 at age 58.  Shortly after his passing the Illinois legislature honored Turner by adopting a "resolution of tribute" in his memory and adjourned the day's session. Turner was survived by his wife of over twenty years, Maria Cooper. A burial location for both Turner and his wife is unknown at this time.

A Turner memorial notice from the California Eagle, February 3, 1928.

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