Madison-Morgan Cultural Center Honors Robert M. Turnell

Jesse Walker Community, Featured

Special to the Citizen

Friends, family and Cultural Center supporters gathered on the new brick patio in front of the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center on Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 4 p.m. for the unveiling of a special memorial in honor of Robert M. Turnell, founder and first Board of Trustees chair of the Morgan County Foundation which administers the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center.

Kim Brown, Director of the Cultural Center, welcomed everyone and spoke about the exciting improvements at the Center as a result of the current capital campaign “Sustaining a Place” That Matters. She invited everyone to tour the building following the outdoor program.

Brown introduced former trustee Wayne Vason, who spoke about Robert Turnell’s history in Madison, including his service as Mayor of Madison in the late 1930s when City Hall, the State Patrol Barracks, and the Madison Gymnasium (now the Hall at the Cultural Center) were constructed. Turnell’s interest in his community included preservation of several houses in Madison and Morgan County, including the historic Joshua Hill House on Old Post Road. Along with Joe Bell and Kay Tipton, he purchased the old Madison Graded School building when it was no longer in use and formed the Morgan County Foundation to protect and preserve the building.

After Turnell’s untimely death in 1975, his legacy was continued by his widow, Lilias Baldwin Turnell. Today the Robert M. and Lilias Baldwin Turnell Foundation continues a 60-year tradition of support to the Cultural Center and other local organizations.   

Sue Baldwin, niece of RTurnell and trustee of the Turnell Foundation, was invited to unveil the granite block pedestal featuring a bronze full-face bas-relief of Mr. Turnell. Mr. Vason read the text on the plaque:  “Robert M. Turnell, 1901 – 1975, A visionary civic leader and philanthropist who helped preserve this building for the benefit of future generations.”      

Chris Lambert, Chair of the Cultural Center’s current capital campaign “Sustaining a Place That Matters,”  followed on the program and noted that after major interior improvements, the campaign is now focused on exterior improvements around the historic 1895 building. According to Lambert, “This beautiful memorial to Robert Turnell is part of those efforts, as we recognize his role in our history while also adding to our outdoor sculpture garden.”  As Chair of the capital campaign, she invited all guests to add their support to this ongoing project and noted that the full landscaping plan was available for viewing.

Lambert introduced the memorial designer and sculptor, Greg Johnson of    Gregory Johnson Fine Art in Forsyth, Georgia. She reminded guests that Mr. Johnson was already known to local citizens as the artist who designed and created several significant sculpted works of art in Madison’s Town Park.          

Lambert recognized and thanked current and former Cultural Center trustees who were present, as well as extended family members of the Turnell and Baldwin families.

The outdoor program concluded with a champagne celebration and many photographs of the memorial which stands watch over all who enter and exit the front door of this historic building.

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