Remembering Laura Hawkins-Turner

Syracuse has lost another one of its political pioneers.
Laura Hawkins Turner passed away recently, and services were held the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse, Friday Aug. 27.

Her obituary, provided at the funeral service, said, “She believed that politics was a way for black people to obtain power and control over their community and everyday life.”

But many don’t know that Laura Turner as one of Mulberry Square’s first tenants. She became president of the Mulberry Tenants Association. As the property deteriorated she and others forced the federal government to award fair compensation for those residents forced to leave the poorly designed and constructed facilities.

Her achievements and awards would take two columns just to list. She was most proud of her photo with President Jimmy Carter for whom she served as a delegate to at the National Convention.

Laura returned to school at age 47 enrolling in Onondaga Community College earning her AAS degree in Human Services in 1974 and a BS degree in Family and Community Services from Syracuse University.

While attending OCC she was on the Dean’s List and was President of JAAMA, OCC Black Student Union. She planned and coordinated a Black Student weekend with Julian Bond former Georgia State Senator as guest speaker.

“Thoughtful, with a keen sense of politics” is how journalist Walt Shepperd described Mrs. Turner.

George Kilpatrick, WCNY, had this to say: “Working with Laura was a delight. She was full of wisdom and energy, and always had advice to share. She was part of a great team dedicated to making sure that the city of Syracuse lived up to its commitment of equal opportunity for all in contracting. She loved her some ‘T.’ her late husband, and loved talking about her family and trips to Vegas.

But, my favorite quote from her was “just because there’s a little snow on the roof does not mean there’s no fire in the furnace.”

She served as a Minority Business Specialist under the administration of Mayor Tom Young and Office of Minority Affairs Director George A. Kilpatrick.

Mrs. Turner was also a foot soldier at the Democratic Party committee level and as a charter member of the Benjamin Banneker Democratic Club.

The Benjamin Banneker club was especially important since African-Americans weren’t always welcome with open arms in the local Democratic Party. Mrs. Turner made sure that the interests of the African American and senior citizen communities’ were not forgotten.

She lived by example serving over 20 years as the Democratic Committee 9th Ward Chairwoman for over 20 years.

As we left the Cathedral on a sunny summer Friday morning “this is an end of an era” one mourner was overheard saying to a group of people gathered on the steps recalling Laura Turners’ activism and life. “Yes, an end of an era” All heads nodded in unison.

Thanks, Laura.

Laura Hawkins-Turner, center, celebrates her retirement from the Office of Minority Affairs with, from left, George Kilpatrick, Rev. H. Bernard Alex, Corinthia Emmanuel and Ken Jackson.

August 31, 2010