COACH HAROLD TURNER
An era long past......
In the beginning..........
Coy and Ethel Turner moved to the Pepperell Village sometime around 1926. The
mill was just getting started and they had followed their parents there to find work. A little daughter
was born to them shortly after, but she only lived to be around eighteen months old. Then on April 21,
1928, they had a son and named him Harold. A couple of years later another son, Jack joined the family....both
were born at their home in the village. The boys grew up there and attended Pepperell
School located in the heart of the village.
Harold attended grades one through eight
at the Pepperell School and then transferred to Clift High School in Opelika to play football. He attended
Clift High in grades nine through twelve. In the fall of 1945 he was captain of the
1945 undefeated OHS football team. Other Pepperell kids who were a part of the winning
team of that year included Skip Lanier, Gene Deloach, Harold Birchfield and Loy Reynolds.
Also in 1945 he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout with Troup 51 of the Boy Scouts of America . Harold
graduated from Clift High in May 1946.
He enlisted in the United States
Army and served from 1946 to 1948. After returning from the Army he attended Auburn
University (A.P.I.) on a football scholarship. He played for A.P.I. during the 1948-49 season.
A knee injury ended his football playing time. While attending college he went to see Mr. Homer
Carter, he told him he wanted to work with the kids and asked him for a job. Mr. Carter being the nice
man he was.... hired him to coach the football team at Pepperell School. He coached there from 1949 to
After graduating from college he
was named Principal of Pepperell School, a position he held from 1951 to 1953. During this time he
continued to coach the football team.
In 1954 he went to Clift High School as assistant coach under Coach
Sam Mason. He held this position until 1958. He also coached the wrestling team and
during his tenure the team won the state championship. He also taught history, science and
consumer math. In 1958 he was named Principal of Opelika Jr. High and remained there until 1960.
of 1960 the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Coach was hired to be the Assistant Principal of Druid Hills
High School in Dekalb County. He served in that position and others until 1983 when he was named Assistant
Superintendent of Dekalb Schools Special Education. Later that year he retired.
On June 24, 1951 he married his high school sweetheart, Jean Leverett, at the Pepperell Methodist Church.
They have one son, Edward. On June 24, 2011 they celebrated their
60th wedding anniversary.
is very much a part of the history of the Pepperell Mill Village. Not only did he care for the kids he
worked with his entire professional life, but he was much admired and respected by those same kids, and it remains the same
today. Several years ago when the Crawfords began hosting an annual 'Pepperell Kids
Reunion' event, word was received that Coach would be there....all the 'kids' (including the
ladies) were so excited to be able to see him again after so many years. We were all so blessed to be able
to have such a fine person in our young lives, especially one who with our same background gave so much of himself and his
principles to influence those young lives so many years ago. Coach and teacher Harold Turner touched many
lives during his professional career. He was a dedicated teacher, coach, mentor and a true influence on
the kind of people his students became as they grew into adults and a huge factor in the success of most. As
a coach he taught the boys not only how to be a better athlete, but a better person.
Respect for the man........
Respect is appreciation of the ways he was unique. Those whose
lives he touched are united in great respect for him, his military service to our country, and his dedication to teaching
the young lives he touched. The best teachers teach from the heart not from the books. A
teacher doesn't know the fruit of a day's work until many years later. He spent his entire professional
life meeting the needs of his students and teaching those young children how to make a difference in their lives.
What makes a good coach/teacher? Complete dedication! The superior coach/teacher
demonstrates...the great coach/teacher inspires.....he is a "Superhero" to those who were fortunate enough to have
crossed paths with him. Thank you Coach for being the person you are and thank you Mrs. Turner for standing
with him through the past sixty years.
The following are comments from former students........
Harry (Buddy) Smallwood says.........."He is a fine man!
Coach was the most influential man in my life with the exception of my Dad. I still have a
lot of respect for him, he was always a fair and truthful man to us kids. He was one of my sports
coaches for all the years I played sports during my school years. He treated every boy
the same and he looked after the boys like a big brother".
George Crawford says........................"I have many
memories of Coach Turner, but two things come to mind first and foremost. One, although as youngsters in
the village we did not always do the right thing; it sure was not because Coach did not teach us the right thing to do at
every opportunity he had. His guidance kept many of us out of serious trouble. Two,
his insistence on getting an education kept many of us in school when we did not want to be there and his influence on me
is the single largest reason I have a degree from Auburn University today".
Terry Baker says................................."An inspirational
man, truly a role model. You did not want to disappoint him". Terry shared this
with us.......One day some of the boys decided to skip school (more commonly known as playing hooky) and go to Auburn to spend
the day 'shooting pool'. After their day off from school and as they made their way back
to Opelika (walking) from Auburn , Coach saw them and stopped to pick them up. The punishment handed out
that day for skipping school was running laps around the football field, which they did until they all
'threw up'. Now that may sound like extreme punishment these days......but according
to Terry you can be assured that they all thought twice before skipping school again.
Monona Vickers Baker has shared some of her memories..........
she reminded us that Coach was also the Lifeguard at the Pepperell Lake during the summer swim months. The
Vickers family lived at the American Legion Hall and a snake had gotten in the living quarters of the building.
Harold came to the rescue and retrieved and removed the snake from the building. Monona says he
became their hero for his bravery.
Douglas (Doug) Smith says................."How do you put into words what one
man meant to an entire generation of young boys! I remember when I was about 12 or 13 years old and playing
football under Coach Turner, it seemed like I was always getting hurt in some....usually small way. It
seemed as though I really enjoyed the attention I got for those 'small' injuries. Finally, one
day Coach took me off to the side and said to me..."Smith, do you know what grandstanding means? Grandstanding
means just for you. Team sports is not just for you". That was his way of telling
me in a gentle way that he knew I was faking my injuries for the attention I got." Another story Doug
shared......sometimes the boys would light up a cigarette, something that was very bad to do back in those days.....and sometimes
they would get caught. Yep....Coach caught them at it and he definitely did not approve of such actions.
Doug also remembers that during the football season in 1953, they traveled to West Point to play
the Jr. High team. Their uniforms were sort of 'shabby' and outdated. Before
the game Coach told them that if they would play good and win that night the 'Mill' would buy them new uniforms.
Well....they won the game that night 7-0 and yes, they got their much needed new uniforms. Just
one of his promises to those young boys that he kept, and there were many more.
Ted Worthington says.............."I
only knew Coach Turner after he came to Clift High. Not only was he a good coach, but he was also a very
good athlete himself. I remember when we ran wind sprints during practice, he could out run most of us
running 'backwards'. When you made a bad play, he was quick to point out your mistakes, but he
was also quick to congratulate you when you made a good play. He was and is a well respected person."