Memphis Democratic Rep. Larry Turner dead at 70

Tennessee lawmakers say Rep. Larry Turner was a “voice of common sense” that will be missed in the state Legislature.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois DeBerry told The Associated Press she was informed by the Memphis Democrat's wife that he died Friday morning after a long battle with an unspecified illness. He was 70.

Deberry, also a Memphis Democrat, described Turner as a quiet yet effective lawmaker who, “I never heard anybody say anything bad about, and I never heard him say anything bad about anybody.”

Turner spent 24 years in the Legislature with hardly any absences, but missed most of the last session of the General Assembly.

“The only other time he was absent was for a death in the family,” DeBerry said.

Democratic Rep. Ulysses Jones of Memphis said Turner was a “voice of common sense” in the Legislature and his leadership will particularly be missed in the Tennessee Black Caucus.

“Our prayers are with his family and his wife, Johnnie Turner,” he said. Johnnie Turner heads the NAACP chapter in Memphis. She did not immediately return a call for comment.

Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Covington Democrat, said Turner's loyalty and dedication to his constituents were among the reasons he appointed Turner deputy speaker under his leadership.

“You could always count on Larry,” Naifeh said.

Turner's most notable legislative victories dealt with education, predatory lending and helping restore rights to felons.

One measure made it easier for felons to regain their voting rights, allowing them to do so by way of a certificate if they have met certain requirements.

Besides being a member of the Black Caucus, Turner was also secretary of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of several committees, including the House Education and Commerce committees.

“He was an outstanding, honest legislator,” said Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville. “He was always helpful in any way that he could be.”

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