religion, christianity, articles
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Opal Shipp Turner (1912-1995)

By Raymond Elliott

religion, articles, christianity

Opal Shipp Turner, often referred to as "The First Lady of Alabama Christian College," died at the age of 82 on July 24, 1995, at her home in Montgomery. Her husband, Rex A. Turner Sr., along with Joe Ben Greer and Leonard Johnson, founded this institution as Montgomery Bible School in 1942, and he served successively as its co-president, president, and chancellor for 31 years. Presently it is named Faulkner University.

Mrs. Turner was hostess for numerous college events and taught home economics on the high-school and the college levels for 22 years. She exerted a tremendous influence in the lives of scores of young ladies who were enrolled in her classes. In addition to her academic achievements and contributions, she was a devoted wife and a loving mother of three children.

Opal Shipp Turner was born on Dec. 18, 1912, in the Corner community, north of Birmingham, Ala. She was a daughter of Octavia Bullard and M.M. Shipp. She was a 1929 graduate of Corner High School.

She married Rex A. Turner on Dec. 24, 1931. In 1936 they moved to Montgomery, Ala., where he served various congregations as minister.

When Montgomery Bible School started, Mrs. Turner was one of the first students to enroll in the college classes and was one of the first graduates. She continued her education that she might work alongside her husband. She completed a B.S. degree at Huntingdon College in Montgomery and obtained a Master's degree in home economics from Auburn University in 1954.

She, along with her husband, made many sacrifices as they devoted themselves to providing Christian education for young men and women at the old Montgomery Bible College and later Alabama Christian College. In 1967 they were instrumental in establishing Southern Christian University, an upper-division college and graduate school specializing in religious studies, in Montgomery, which Dr. Turner has also served as president and chancellor.

Mrs. Turner's funeral services were conducted at Leak-Memory Chapel in Montgomery on Wednesday, July 26, 1995. Don Greer led the congregational singing, and Paul Tarence led a prayer. The speakers were Gaddys Roy; Michael Turner, a grandson; and Raymond Elliott. Mrs. Turner is survived by her husband, Dr. Rex Turner; a daughter, Mary Turner Hargis of Nashville, Tenn.; a son, Dr. Rex Turner Jr., of Montgomery; a sister, Sybil Edmison of Corner; a brother, Lowell Shipp of Corner; seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her older daughter, Jackie Turner Long of Atlanta, Gal, in 1974.

Published November 1995