May 18, 2017

RIP Ed Turner, Athens' First Black City Councilman

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Photo Credit: courtesy of Eric Turner

Edward L. Turner, an Athens civil rights pioneer who was the first African American elected to the Athens City Council (before city-county unification) in 1970, died Tuesday at the age of 73.

Athens Anti-Discrimation Movement leader Mokah Jasmine Johnson passed along this obituary from Turner's wife, Deborah, and lawyer Ken Dious.

Edward L. Turner, born July 26, 1943 in North Carolina, became a resident of Athens shortly after birth. He was recently honored on Jan. 18, 2017 at Athens' first MLK Day Parade and Fest for his sacrifice and contributions to Athens-Clarke County. As a graduate of Athens High and Industral School, he attended Savannah State College, where he pledged to Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Turner eventually returned to Athens and graduated from the University of Georgia, earning a B.A. in history. 

In 1970, he was elected the first African American to the Athens City Council, and was also the first African-American elected official in Northeast Georgia. Ed Turner was a trendsetter and dedicate his life to serving his community. Elected to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, he served jointly as city councilman and president of the NAACP for 18 consecutive years and co-founded the black political movement in Athens with Charles Mack. While serving on the council, he assisted in appointing the first African-American professionals in many positions, such as the first supervisor hired in the city. Department heads and female department heads were appointed, and the first African-American school board members and personnel department for the city of Athens were established. 

In addition, Mr. Turner was the first African American assigned to serve on the planning commission, and also served as a civil rights worker in Savannah and Ludowici. Edward Turner received the Pioneer Award in 2011, and also was selected Who's Who in Politics in the South and Southeast. 

Turner's accomplishments and impact go far beyond items mentioned in this document. He truly paved the way for many and left his footprint in Athens. It is important that we honor our elders and show support to his family.

For more information regarding Edward Turner's memorial service, please email Mrs. Turner at