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HON. GEORGE TURNER.
Among Spokane's citizens who have figured in national affairs Hon. George Turner is prominent. His public service has rested upon the firm basis of a wide and thorough knowledge of the law and he has never regarded a public office as a personal asset to be used for the promotion of individual interests but rather as a trust to be sacredly guarded for the benefit of his country and his constituents. While in the courts he has been an important factor in the interpretation of the laws and in congress he has aided in formulating the legal principles which constitute the stable forces of the nation. It would be difficult to point out that period of his life which has been of greatest benefit to his fellowmen, for as supreme court justice of Washington during territorial days, as a member of the constitutional convention of the state, as a member of the United States senate and in diplomatic service his work has all been fruitful of good results.
Judge Turner was born in Edina, Knox county, Missouri, February 25, 1850, a son of Grenville Davenport and Maria (Taylor) Turner. His parents in 1825 had removed from Kentucky to Missouri and had cast in their lot with the pioneer settlers of the latter state, where they maintained their residence until called to their final rest. The father, who was a cabinetmaker by trade, came of English and Dutch ancestry, while his wife, a daughter of George and Maria Taylor, was representative of a family of Scotch-Irish origin that had settled at an early period in the part of Virginia which is now West Virginia.
About 1859 Grenville D. Turner removed with his family to Lebanon, Laclede county, Missouri, and his son, George, then a lad of nine years, became a pupil in the public schools, but his education was interrupted owing to the fact that the schools were obliged to be closed when Missouri became the scene of conflict between contending armies in the Civil war. His father and all of his brothers promptly espoused the cause of the Union and served with the volunteer soldiers in the northern army. Judge Turner also proved his worth to his country in that trying hour for, although but thirteen years of age, he became a military telegraph operator in his home town of Lebanon, continuing at that work until the end of the war. He was. in the south during the reconstruction period and passed the examination for admission to the bar at Mobile, Alabama, in 1868, although but eighteen years of age. The same year he entered upon the active practice of law in Mobile in connection with a friend, Charles E. Mayer, and displayed such ability in the conduct of cases that in 1874 the republican party of Alabama named him as its candidate for the office of attorney general of the state. Such was his personal popularity and the confidence reposed in his ability that he polled a very large vote, being defeated by only a small majority. Again and again at different periods in his life he has been called from private practice to public service. From 1876 until 1880 he filled the position of United States marshal for the southern and middle districts of Alabama and in the latter year and again in 1884 he was chairman of the Alabama delegation in the republican national convention, giving his support in 1880 to General Grant as the presidential nominee.
Judge Turner's identification with Washington dates from 1884, in which year he was appointed associate justice of the supreme court of this territory. He was assigned to the fourth district, which included the greater part of eastern Washington, and had first made his home in Yakima but in 1885 removed to Spokane, where he has since resided. He proved himself the peer of the ablest members who have sat upon the supreme court bench of this state, but in 1887 he resigned his judicial position to enter upon the private practice of law as a member of the firm of Turner, Foster & Turner. That association continued until 1890, when he became senior member of the firm of Turner Graves & McKinstry, so continuing until his election to the United States senate in 1897. He is now practicing in the firm of Turner & Geraghty, a foremost one in the ranks of the legal profession in the state. His opinions while on the bench showed great research, industry and care and expressed a solidity and an exhaustiveness from which no members of the bar could take exception. While well grounded in the principles of common law when admitted to practice, he has continued through the whole of his professional life a diligent student of those elementary principles that constitute the basis of all legal science. He has been connected With few business interests outside the strict path of his profession, yet was one of the men largely interested in the celebrated Le Roi mine in British Columbia.
The bent of Judge Turner's active mind has made him take a lively pleasure in the study of the science of government and because of this his labors have been particularly effective and beneficial in public offices to which he has been called. In 1889 he rendered valuable service as chairman of the judiciary committee in the convention which was called to form the state constitution of Washington and left the indelible impress of his individuality upon the organic law of the state. In his political relations he acted with the republican party until 1896, when he supported William Jennings Bryan on the silver issue. In the following year he was elected United States senator from Washington and in that office served for the full constitutional term, retiring in 1903. Presidential appointment made him a member of the Alaska boundary tribunal, which met in London in the summer of 1903 and settled the Alaskan boundary dispute between the United States and England. In 1910 he received from Secretary of State Root the appointment as leading counsel of the United States in the northeastern fisheries arbitration at the Hague. Upon his retirement from the state department Mr. Root became a participant in the case, whereupon Mr. Turner insisted upon withdrawing as leading counsel in favor of Mr. Root. The case was opened for the United States by Mr. Turner, following Sir Robert Finley, who opened for Great Britain, each occupying eight days.
On the 4th of June, 1878, in Montgomery, Alabama, Mr. Turner was united in marriage to Miss Bertha C. Dreher, a daughter of George and Catherine (Scheiss) Dreher, the father a native of Saxony and the mother of Switzerland. They came to this country at an early day and were married in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and later removed to Alabama. His social and fraternal relations are with the Masons and the Elks, the Spokane Club, the Spokane Athletic Club, the Spokane Country Club, and the Metropolitan Club of Washington, D. C. Association with him means expansion and elevation. He has throughout his life been a close student of men and affairs and his analytical power has brought him clear understanding of both. This same power has enabled him at all times to see below the surface of things in his consid¬eration of vital state and national questions and to correctly determine the possible outcome of a critical situation. The judicial trend of his mind has kept him free from personal bias or prejudice in his public acts and his course has at all times sustained the honor of state and country without the sacrifice of the rights of other lands. A gracious presence, a charming personality and profound legal wisdom all combine to make him one of the most distinguished and honored residents of the state of Washington.
History of the City of Spokane and Spokane County Washington 1912