I am the unluckiest guy in the Newton County area. I never got to know Almond Turner.
I am not sure how it came to be that our paths never crossed. I knew of him, of course, and admired him from afar. I knew he was a great human being, assistant chief of police, Newton County school board member, devout Christian and a leader in his church. But I had moved away from Newton County at about the time he was beginning the various aspects of his life of service to his community and although we had met, at various events from time to time, enough to nod and smile and say hello, I never really got to know him. And now it is too late. And it is my loss.
But people I know and love and respect knew Almond Turner, and hearing and reading the things they had to say about this great public servant offer me great assurance that he was one of the best among us, and had been for a long time.
Take Jerry Carter, for instance. Jerry Carter played tight end on my Cousins Middle School football team. I remember the 80-yard touchdown pass he scored on a 10-yard-out pattern against the Cowboys. Jerry Carter is a great success story. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice and is the chief deputy for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office.
Jerry called Almond Turner his “neighbor, mentor and friend.” If a person can be all of those things to a wonderful human being like Jerry Carter, he was someone I would have liked to have been friends with as well.
I also had the privilege of teaching and coaching Craig Treadwell, another Newton Countian who, like Jerry, dedicated his life to law enforcement. He wrote this about Assistant Chief Turner.
“I worked with Chief Almond Turner for 38 years. I never met a finer man than Almond Turner.
“I know a lot of good men! I cannot begin to describe what an honor it is to know and work with Almond. We laughed and cried together, sat on stakeouts, interviewed the worst criminals society had to offer, and worked murders for three days straight. I cannot hold back my tears as I tell you just how much Almond Turner will be missed by me!”
I copied both quotes from a public forum, and there were so many more along the same lines — hundreds of tributes from people I have known and respected for decades, about a man that I should have gotten to know but didn’t.
For the record, Almond Turner was born in 1950. He was a couple of years older than me. I don’t know a lot, but I know that for Almond Turner to have grown up in the American South during basically the same time period I did would have caused him to face some obstacles I never had to face. It could have created situations that would have left him bitter and distrustful and scarred. But I know from talking to dozens of people that knew Assistant Chief Turner intimately that nothing could be further from the truth.
I have learned about his strong Christian faith, and I know that he loved everybody and lived the Golden Rule. He treated everyone he met the way he would want to be treated. That’s not always an easy task in his chosen profession.
It was obvious in the way the public reacted to his death that he was loved and respected, from the flood of public condolences, like the ones I have cited, to the throngs of people at his candlelight vigil on the Covington Square to the outpouring of sympathy and honor during his homecoming service at Springfield Baptist Church. This man was loved.
It is incomprehensible that such a revered person would be shot down at a family function, allegedly by a member of his own family. The event robbed his family of a husband, father, grandfather and uncle, and this community of a leader that we can ill afford to lose. All we can do is wonder why. That question may never be answered on this side of heaven.
I am the unluckiest guy in this area because I didn’t know Almond Turner. But I know that he and I will eventually be together in a better place. He is there now, waiting for all of us, and when I get there, he is one of the first people I will look up.
May you rest in peace, sir. Thank you for your service to our community.