Walter Sanderson Turner, 79, entered God's nearer presence on Monday, February 26, 2018, after an extended illness. Walter was born on February 7, 1939, to Hazel Sanderson and Charles John Turner.
A life-long resident of Montgomery, he graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1957. He then earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Alabama before completing his Juris Doctor at the University of Alabama School of Law in 1964. As a law student, Walter watched Governor George Wallace's stand in the schoolhouse door from the back second-story windows of Farrah Hall and recognized the act as an unconstitutional political stunt. At the University of Alabama School of law, Walter served as a student assistant to Dean Lee Harrison for all three years and was a member of the Law Review and Bench and Bar Honor Society. He was also a member of Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Sigma Sigma Sigma Honorary and a reporter for The Crimson White.
Walter dedicated his life to public service. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Frank M.Johnson, Jr., United States District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama. It was during this time that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought the permission of the Court to march from Selma to Montgomery. Judge Johnson made it clear to Walter that he would not allow the march unless the United States Justice Department would guarantee the safety of the marchers. Walter then communicated this to his contact at the Justice Department. Based on the information provided by Walter, the Justice Department ensured Judge Johnson that the marchers would be protected. Judge Johnson ordered that the march could take place and the march changed history.
After leaving Judge Johnson's office Walter joined the staff of the Alabama Attorney General under Richmond Flowers. He would go on to serve nine Attorneys General as Chief Assistant Attorney General, Chief of the Civil Division and as the first Chief Administrative Law Judge. He loved the office, and never more so as when his former roommate, Bill Baxley, was elected Attorney General in 1970. Walter received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award in 2009 and was honored by the Montgomery County Bar Association for 50 years of service in 2015.
Walter married Betty Dent Turner in 1966. At the time of his death, they had been married more than 51 years. Together they raised their four children: Christopher Matthew Turner, Caroline Turner Taylor (George L. 'Pete' Taylor, Sr.), John Mark Turner (Morgan LemlyTurner) and William Andrew Turner. Will preceded his father in death in 2017.
Walter and Betty have three grandchildren: George L. 'Pete' Taylor, Jr., Helen Wallace Taylor and Walter Turner Taylor. Walter loved his grandchildren very much and enjoyed picking them up from school, attending their athletic competitions, school plays and taking them to Chris' Hot Dogs. They, in turn, brought great joy to his life.
Walter is also survived by his sister Caroline Turner Barker (James) and his brothers Ralph Michael Tuner (Susan)and Richard ShannonTurner as well as a host of loved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Hazel Sanderson and Charles John Turner and his brother Charles John Turner, Jr.
Other than his family, Walter was passionate about his Church and parish. He was an active member of the Church of the Ascension (Episcopal) for more than 50 years. He served as Senior Warden of the Vestry on three separate occasions and helped rebuild the Ascension after the devastating fire in 1984. Walter also served on the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Diocesan Council, and was the first president of the Alabama Cursillo Secretariat. Walter was also a graduate of the Education for Ministry program through the University of the South (Sewanee).
A Celebration of Life and Committal to the memorial garden will be held at the Church of the Ascension, 315 Clanton Avenue in Montgomery on March 2, 2018, at 11:00 in the morning. The Reverend Rosa Lindahl will officiate, the Reverend John C. Coleman will preach and the Reverend Carl C. Bright will make the Commendation and committal. The family will receive friends following the Committal at the home of Caroline and Pete Taylor, 3338 Southview Avenue.
Recognizing that "All of us go down to dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia," the family requests that in lieu of flowers any memorials be made to:
- The Music Program
Church of the Ascension
315 Clanton Avenue
Montgomery AL 36104
Published in the Montgomery Advertiser on Mar. 1, 2018.