DETCOG Honors Jim Turner with the 2018 Ralph W. Steen Memorial East Texan of the Year Award
Jim Turner has been named the 2018 Ralph W. Steen Memorial East Texan of the Year. The Steen award was named in honor of the beloved past president of Stephen F. Austin State University. It honors an individual who has played a major role in leadership and service to Deep East Texas. The 2017 recipient of the award, Jasper County Judge Mark Allen, made the announcement Thursday during the Annual Membership Meeting of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center in Lufkin.
While actually being born in Fort Lewis, Washington, Turner grew up in Deep East Texas. A product of the Crockett Public Schools, he received his bachelor’s degree in business, MBA, and law degree, all from the University of Texas at Austin. Following graduation, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army, serving 8 years and attaining the rank of Captain.
Turner represented the DETCOG region in the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 to 1984, and in the Texas Senate from 1991 to 1996. In between the House and Senate, he served as Mayor of the City of Crockett. In Austin he served as Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Chairman of the Texas Commission on Children and Youth, and served on the Texas State Ethics Commission.
When Congressman Charlie Wilson retired from the United States Congress, the citizens of East Texas sent Turner to Washington. He represented the 2nd District of Texas, which included all of the DETCOG Region, from 1997 to 2005.
According to Judge Allen, “He wasn’t just a Member of Congress – he was a leader. He served as Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, Member of the Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member of the Terrorism Subcommittee. He was Co-Chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group that was known for stepping outside of party boundaries and working across the aisle to get things done.”
One of Turner’s accomplishments was the passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act of 2000. This bill, which was just reauthorized by the Congress in March of this year, has had a lasting impact on Deep East Texas. From 2001 through 2017 the SRS program has resulted in approximately $55 million in funding to the National Forest Counties and School Districts in the DETCOG Region.
After retiring from Congress, he continued to work for our region as a Partner in the Washington law firm of Arnold and Porter. He is now Of Counsel to the firm of Hance Scarborough, LLP.
Turner and his wife, Ginny, continue to reside in Crockett, where he has continued to work diligently to make his community and region a better place. Recently, he has been instrumental in bringing key people together to work for the re-opening of the Houston County Hospital which closed last year. Rep. Kevin Brady, who now represents Houston County in the Congress, said, “Jim’s leadership is one of the reasons why this hospital is going to re-open.”
Turner was in Washington when the award was presented, but accepted it over the phone saying he was honored to be recognized for a lifetime of service to the people of Deep East Texas.
The Ralph W. Steen Memorial East Texan of the Year Award has become one of the most prestigious and longest running, recognitions bestowed in East Texas. In 1976, Dr. Ralph W. Steen was retiring after 20 years as President of Stephen F. Austin State University. He had guided SFA from a small college to a large regional university, and in the process, he contributed greatly to the development of the Deep East Texas region. To honor his legacy DETCOG created this award and presented it to Dr. Steen -- and then named the award after him.