July 2, 2021 – The University of Houston Law Center community and colleagues throughout the legal profession shared their heartfelt memories of A.A. White Professor of Law Ronald Turner during a recent virtual memorial ceremony.
Turner passed away on June 3 at the age of 66. He was remembered for his devotion to his family, his excellence as an employment and labor law scholar and his love of music.
“He was a professor who was very key in the development of our students' careers and trajectories into the legal profession,” said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “We will miss Professor Turner. He was very talented, well thought of and regarded; he was an incredible teacher and an incredible human being.”
Turner graduated magna cum laude from Wilberforce University in 1980 and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984. Turner joined the Law Center faculty in 1998 and was appointed the A.A. White Professor of Law in 2016. He was the first African-American full professor in the Law Center’s history. Before joining the Law Center, he served as a labor-management relations examiner with the National Labor Relations Board, practiced law in Chicago, and taught at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Turner specialized in labor law, employment law, constitutional law, and taught employment discrimination, labor law, torts, constitutional law, and a course on HIV/AIDS and the law.
A former research associate at the Industrial Research Unit at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Turner also served as a contributing editor for the AIDS & Public Policy Journal. His numerous publications included books and articles on labor and employment law issues, AIDS, and hate speech. He was also a Visiting Professor of Law at the College of William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law and was a Visiting Professor of History at Rice University.
Professor Meredith J. Duncan '93 and Professor David Dow were among the speakers to eulogize Turner.
"Ron was a man of many talents, interests and areas of expertise,” Duncan said. “Yes, he was a lawyer, a law professor and a scholar. But he was also a music lover, a musician and a bibliophile. He was one of the most well-read people I've ever known and likely will ever know. He always had a new book in his hand every time I saw him. Of course, he could engage in intellectual conversations about the law and everything related to the law, but he was always up for a well-informed conversation about almost anything. Ron amazingly knew a lot about a lot.
“Ron was a tall man, but he wasn't physically imposing at all because he was so kind, soft-spoken and even-tempered. I thought of him as somewhat as a gentle giant. He was always approachable and had a calming presence.”
Dow shared recollections of shared taste in music and television shows with Turner, and provided a friendly critique of Turner's skills at the poker table after numerous games over the years.
“The reason he was a bad poker player was because he was constitutionally incapable of suspending his true sincerity for long enough to bluff even a single hand,” Dow said. “He wasn't a poker player. He was a dad, he was a granddad and he himself was a musician. Mostly though, I'll remember Ron as my dear friend.”
The ceremony concluded with comments from Turner’s daughter, Kathryn Kendall.
“While most of you knew my dad as Professor Turner or Ron, our family knew him as 'Brother,'" she said. “My dad was the only boy of five siblings and was born in St. Louis, Missouri. My brother and I were always encouraged to read and were exposed to all types of music. He was inspiring.
“On behalf of our entire family, we thank you for this memorial honoring his amazing professional and academic accomplishments. I've heard countless stories of how he affected the lives of students, and please know he has truly affected the lives of his family as well. I will make sure that his legacy lives on through his grandchildren.”
Memorial donations honoring Professor Turner may be made to the Black Law Alumni Scholarship and UHLC Pre-Law Pipeline Program at giving.uh.edu/law/. Please reference Professor Turner in the “This gift is in memory of:” field. For questions, please contact email@example.com or 713-743-2201.