Remembering local civic leader, philanthropist Bill Turner

COLUMBUS, Ga. — How do you measure the life of Bill Turner? It could simply be in the years he lived or his success in business.

For some, that would be enough. But not for Mr. Bill as he was commonly known.

On Monday afternoon, 94-year-old Bill Turner passed away in his home. Now, the community remembers the life and legacy of the former W.C. Bradley president and CEO.

“He believed we all needed to work together and make this a better world and I think that was his guiding principle, what could he do to make sure he made the place that he left behind a better place and I can you he certainly did,” W.C. Bradley Company President and CEO Marc Olivie said.

In the early 1970’s, Turner took on a leadership role in a bi-racial committee requested by then Governor Jimmy Carter.

Through the Bradley-Turner Foundation, Turner and his family donated millions of dollars to various institutions and causes. Many of the contributions were made anonymously.

“He was willing to fight for what he believed in and he had a lot of other people who were willing to follow him,” Olivie said.

Those who followed him called themselves “Bill’s Army,” including Rick McKnight who considered him a friend and mentor.

“It was a pleasure to join in his vision,” McKnight said. “He inspired us to be more philanthropic, to work together, to dream really big and then go find a way to do it and his children are the same way.”

Turner was on the board at both Synovus and TSYS, which are now two of the largest employers in the area.

He kept profits in mind, but having an inclusive and diverse workplace was important to Turner as well.

“A lot of great things can be achieved if you’re willing to share the credit or have somebody else take the credit for it and that was his motto,” Olivie said.

McKnight feels the same way.

“Bill made you do better than you thought you could,” McKnight said. “He was generous, he was wise, he had a vision that changed the face of Columbus.”

Back in 2000, Turner wrote a book about servant leadership.

In the comments on the back of the book, you’ll see a statement from former President Jimmy Carter in which he says Turner touched the lives of thousands by making servant leadership his life’s goal.

Turner also had a hand in revitalizing Uptown Columbus, including work on the River Center, Springer Opera House and many other project that have benefited Columbus

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