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Archive for Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Community activist worked for equality

April 3, 2007

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Cynthia Jane Turner, a Lawrence community activist known for her efforts to assist children, minorities and the poor, died Thursday at Brandon Woods Retirement Community. She was 88.

"The majority of the children are good kids and just need direction," Turner told the Lawrence Journal-World in 1979. "But there's so many things that make low-income, minority children go off the deep end."

Born Nov. 25, 1918, in Oskaloosa, Turner moved to Lawrence in 1945, the same year she married Lawrence Turner. Her husband died in 2006.

Turner attended Emporia State Teachers College and graduated from Kansas University.

Turner ran for state representative from the 39th District in 1970. She ran, she said at the time, to assist the black community.

"The voice of black people in Lawrence has been silent too long, and the governmental agencies of this state have not addressed themselves to the political and economic empowerment of black people," she said in 1970.

Turner was director of the Ballard Community Center during the 1970s. At that time she also was active in the local Volunteers in Court program and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Development program, and she served on the board of Hope Plaza, a low- and middle-income housing project in Lawrence.

"Cynthia cared deeply about civil rights issues," friend and longtime community volunteer Joanne Hurst said. "She worked on issues of fairness and equity for all in our community for many years."

In 1973, she received the March citizenship award from the Lawrence Life Underwriters Association. In 1977, she received the Lawrence Noon Kiwanis Club's Substantial Citizen Award.

"She was a fighter," said Rehelio Samuel, a friend, fellow activist and longtime city human relations director. "She spent many nights and days helping people, helping them in every way possible."

She also started the I Can Be program for children, which matched international students from KU with area children. The students helped the children with homework, said Lawrence Thompson, Turner's great-grandson of Blue Springs, Mo. Thompson said he was raised by Cynthia and Lawrence Turner.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Second Christian Church.

- Journal-World intern Derek Korte contributed to this report.

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