Former Lawrence school board member, owner of historic Lawrence home Austin Turney dies

photo by: Journal-World

Austin H. Turney is pictured at his house at 1501 Pennsylvania St. on March 26, 2014.

Austin H. Turney, a former Lawrence school board member, history buff and owner of a historic East Lawrence home, has died at age 93.

Turney died July 13. He was a member of the school board from 1997 to 2005. Born in Lawrence in 1929, he graduated from University High School, a former school on the University of Kansas campus that was run by the School of Education. He graduated from KU with a bachelor’s degree in business.

After college, Turney spent 1951 and 1952 in the U.S. Army before starting his professional career as an accountant for Price Waterhouse, first in Kansas City, Missouri, and then on Wall Street in New York City. He later moved to Connecticut, where he worked in the corporate world before ending his career as the financial manager for a Connecticut school system, his son Austin Charles Turney said.

Upon his retirement, Turney and his wife, Ruth, moved back to his hometown of Lawrence in 1994.

With the enjoyment of working as a school district financial director fresh in his memory, Turney ran for and won a seat on the Lawrence school board in 1997.

“He really enjoyed that,” Turney’s son said. “As a retiree, it was like a three-quarter-time job for him. He was able to regularly visit schools and talk to students and teachers. He thought it was important to get the perspective of teachers and not just hear those of administrators.”

Mary Loveland, who served with Turney during her 20 years on the board, said he was an excellent board member who was willing to listen to the views of all. His assets as a board member included his business knowledge and his roots in the Lawrence community, she said.

“It came out in meetings,” she said. “He was a long-term Lawrencian who was able to give historical context to issues.”

Turney was a history buff; he and Ruth toured many European battlefields, and he was keenly interested in railroad history, American Indian wars, the Civil War and the violent territorial and early statehood days of Kansas, said his son, who now has the task of boxing up more than 300 books his father and mother owned for donation to historical societies. Ruth died in 2016.

“My mother and father had a lot of interests,” he said. “Some of them overlapped, but some they pursued on their own.”

Turney lived in a home befitting a history buff: the historic Samuel Riggs Estate at 1501 Pennsylvania St. Built in 1863 by then-Douglas County Attorney Samuel Riggs, the red-brick Italianate house with a tower was purchased in 1931 by Turney’s father, a KU education professor also named Austin Turney, from the son of its builder, Turney’s son said.

“It’s only had four owners since 1863,” Turney’s son said. “I’ll be the fifth. I intend to keep the home.”

As the Journal-World previously reported, the Turney home was under construction in 1863 when William Quantrill raided the city. Quantrill burned it down, but it was quickly rebuilt. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.


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