The life of Colonel Courtney S. Turner is an example that despite humble beginnings, grand achievements are possible.
His lifetime commitment to national and community service and support of his hometown are also lessons in generosity.
Successful Youth Foretold Future
Courtney S. Turner was born March 1st, 1896, in Atchison to C.F.A. and Georgia Pierce Turner, two of Atchison’s pioneers residents. He earned his first dime at age 6 as a substitute carrier for the Atchison Globe and went on to success in finance and real estate. He continued carrying the Globe all through his school years, buying out other boys’ routes with an enterprise that foreshadowed his later successes. When he sold his route it was the largest, and so valuable it had to be divided and sold to two purchasers. Colonel Turner attended Atchison Public Schools and after graduation worked as a secretary at the Cain Milling Company. He then became a collector at Exchange National Bank.
Distinguished Military Service in Two World Wars
In 1917, the Colonel applied for officers’ training school at Fort Riley and was assigned to the Fifth Provisional Co., which formed the officer personnel for the 353rd infantry (All Kansas) Regiment of the 89th Division. He was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1917. Turner was promoted to captain while in the training area near Chaumont, England and was placed in command of the Headquarters Company of the 353rd, making him the youngest officer, as well as the youngest soldier, in the regiment. After the Armistice was signed November 11, 1918, Col. Turner moved into Germany with the army of occupation. He served there for six months before returning to the United States.
Savvy Investments, Golden State Build Fortune
After being demobilized in June 1919, the Colonel returned to his job at Exchange National Bank for a year, he then worked as an assistant to a Capper Publications sales manager in Chicago. In 1922, he joined the Brown-Crummer Investment Company. of Kansas City. In 1925, Col. Turner, Ed Iverson and Balie Waggener formed a partnership to establish the Commerce Acceptance Company., in Atchison. Each put up $7,500 for the firm which planned to handle installment sales contracts for Ford cars sold by the Roy Linley Motor Company. of Atchison.
The company grew from assets of about $27,500 in 1925 to more than $22 million in 1963. Commerce was sold to Southwestern Investment Company. of Amarillo, Texas, in January 1968. After again returning from military duty in 1945, the Colonel and Roy Crummer, his former business associate, began investing in real estate in San Francisco. They had extensive holdings there and in Palm Springs and Beverly Hills. They and other business associates purchased and remolded the La Quinta Hotel about 15 miles southeast of Palm Springs in 1957 and built an 18-hole golf course.
Commitment of Atchison’s Continuing Development
Colonel Turner returned to Atchison in 1968, where he spent the remaining 18 years of his life and became known for his philanthropic contributions to many organizations and programs throughout the city. In addition, Colonel Turner gave of his antique furnishings to the Cray Historical Home Museum and the Amelia Earhart birthplace.
He was a former member of the board of directors of First National Bank of Kansas City. In addition to American Legion Post No. 6 of Atchison, Col. Turner was a member of Masonic Active Lodge No. 158 of Atchison, Abdallah Shrine of Overland Park, Royal Order of Jesters Court No. 93, the Kansas City Club and the Salvation Army board of directors. He was a lifelong member of Trinity Episcopal Church where he was a past member of the vestry and was serving as honorary warden at the time of his death in October of 1986.
He was a former member of the YMCA board of trustees and board of directors and a member emeritus of the Benedictine College board of governors. He received an honorary doctorate from Benedictine College in 1964. The Colonel was a longtime member and friend of the local Boy Scout Council. He was a member of the Atchison Rotary Club.
Born to Atchison pioneers, Colonel Courtney Turner and the legacy of his charitable trust, continue to play an important role in the development and growth of nearly every facet of the Atchison area.
Since the Trust’s inception, it has given away several millions of dollars, benefiting many Atchison, Kansas community organizations.