George Thomas "Tom" Turnipseed (August 27, 1936 - March 6, 2020) was an attorney and former Democratic member of the South Carolina State Senate known for his liberal activism. Beginning in the late 1970s, he became active within the civil rights movement, which he had once opposed. He has spoken and written extensively on civil rights and social justice.
2 Career and political campaigns
4 Media host and author
6 External links
Tom Turnipseed was born on August 27, 1936 to parents George Franklin Turnipseed and Ruby May Turnipseed, nee Bell. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Turnipseed received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he met his wife, Judith ("Judy"), while she was a graduate student at the institution. Judy Turnipseed is the office manager of Turnipseed & Associates law firm in the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina. The couple wed in 1963 and have two children, Jeff and Jeny. Jefferson Davis Turnipseed and his wife, the former Cynthia "Cyndy" Smith, are attorneys at Turnipseed & Associates. Jeny of Atlanta, Georgia, is a homemaker and a former special education teacher. Her husband, Gil Mathis, is an actuary.
Career and political campaigns
In 1966, Turnipseed became the first executive director of the South Carolina Independent School Association, an accrediting agency set up to legitimize segregation academies.
Turnipseed was the executive director of the George Wallace presidential campaign, 1968, when the former governor of Alabama received 13 percent of the vote against Hubert Humphrey and Richard M. Nixon. After the American Independent Party campaign, Turnipseed, like Wallace, returned to the Democratic Party. Turnipseed soon embraced the party's liberal majority wing and joined the interest group, Americans for Democratic Action, founded in 1947 by, among others, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Reuther, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Turnipseed was elected to the South Carolina Senate, serving from 1976 to 1980. That year he was the Democratic nominee for South Carolina's 2nd congressional district. He was defeated by the incumbent Republican Floyd D. Spence, a former Democrat and lawyer from Columbia who benefited from the Ronald W. Reagan presidential campaign that year. In the Spence-Turnipseed race, Republican strategist Lee Atwater planted questions with reporters about Turnipseed's treatment as a teenager for depression. Atwater conducted a push poll against the Democrat, reminding voters of the state senator's involvement with the NAACP. A decade later, prior to his own early death from brain cancer, Atwater wrote to Turnipseed to ask for forgiveness for his actions.
In 1982, Turnipseed lost a Democratic runoff election for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina to Michael R. Daniel. Frye Gaillard of the Charlotte Observer described him as "angry and shrill, and even some of the people who agreed with him finally wished he'd go away. He tried to change his style for campaign, but it was apparently too late. That's a shame, however, because politics can do with a little more passion. And particularly so when that sense of being right comes, as Turnipseed's did, from a deeply felt knowledge of what it means to be wrong."
In 1998, Turnipseed ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Attorney General of South Carolina. Though he won twenty-six counties and finished with more than 46 percent of the vote, Turnipseed was defeated by the incumbent Republican Charlie Condon. However, the Republican governor, David Beasley, was unseated that year, and the GOP failed in its last attempt to unseat U.S. Senator Fritz Hollings.
Turnipseed is the president of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association. He is the former board chairman of the interest group, the Center for Democratic Renewal, formerly known as the National Anti-Klan Network, based in Atlanta. Turnipseed was the co-counsel for the Macedonia Baptist Church in Clarendon County, South Carolina. The church accused the Ku Klux Klan in the 1997 burning of its sanctuary and filed a civil suit against them for damages. In 1998, the African-American congregation won a $37 million jury verdict against the Klan. In 1998, Turnipseed received the Unitarian Universalist Association's highest honor, the Holmes Weatherly Award for the pursuit of social justice.
Of Anglo descent, Turnipseed is a board member of the South Carolina Hispanic Leadership Council, a statewide, non-profit organization founded to inform, advocate for, and educate, both the Hispanic community and the population at large, on issues affecting Hispanics.
Turnipseed has also been active in the environmental movement in South Carolina. He was the founding chairman of the Citizens' Local Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), a statewide umbrella and informational clearing house for local citizens' groups concerned with toxic waste dumps in their areas. Turnipseed argues that "environmental racism and classism" lead to toxic waste sites being located disproportionately in minority and poorer communities. He has argued that toxic wastes constantly migrate through the air, water, and soil and eventually threaten all persons.
Media host and author
Turnipseed has hosted radio shows on WCAY, WCTG, WCEO, and WOIC. He has also hosted a television show on WIS TV. In both formats, his programs provide a forum for discussing diverse issues. He has hosted community leaders, national and local leaders in politics and public affairs, sports, and arts, and entertainment. The Seed Show broad/web casts live on WOIC, 1230AM (Air America) and seedshow.com every weekday from 8 to 9 a.m.
He continues to speak and write about political and human rights, traveling throughout the country. His articles and opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, The Charlotte Observer, CounterPunch, The State, and other newspapers.
Turnipseed's essays have been featured in several books, including Cast A Cold Eye and America's Opinion Writers. His essay, "Renewing The Spirit Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: King Day at the Dome 2003", is featured in the third edition of Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, a college textbook by Sharon Crawley and Debra Hawhee, published in 2004 by Pearson/Longman.
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