Coach Harold Turner
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Harold Turner coached at Pepperell School and Clift High School

                                          April 21, 1928 - August 24, 2013



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.

School years..............

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.

After school................

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 1953. 

Professional life............

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. 

In  August 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.

Personal life..................

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.  


Harold Turner 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."

1943 Football Team

First row seated left to right:  Skip Lanier, Earl Doler, Marvin Duncan.  Second row left to right:  Charles Gilmer, Billy Henson, James Milam, Eugene DeLoach.  Third row standing left to right:  Harold Turner, Billy Stetcher, Paul Mezick. 

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