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Full text of "An oral history of the recent Tennessee political history : interview with Mr. Ed Turrentine, July 30, 1977 / by Dr. Charles W. Crawford, transcribers - Carol Laney and Betty Williams"

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JULY 30, 1977 






DR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Turrentine, before I ask you about Mr. Crump 

in the early days, I'd like to have some biograph- 
ical information from you. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I was born the youngest of four children from 

Spencer Daniel Turrentine and Ida Hunt Turren- 
tine. I was born December 16, 1910. I finished the eighth grade in six 
years and went six months to Central High School with Ben West who became 
mayor. I broke my back three times on the ice delivering milk and the 
doctors told me I had to make a living another way so I got started in 
the real estate business in 1943 in which I still am active daily. 
DR. CRAWFORD: You had been successful in your milk business 

before you gave that up, hadn't you, Mr. Turren- 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, I started out driving a truck seven 

days a week for $80 a month and I went from 
that to Superintendent of 23 milk routes. Sixteen men and I were draw- 
ing during World War II, from $800 to $900 a month, much more money than 

a lot of the bankers were making. 

DR. CRAWFORD: When you started in real estate, did you 

start at this location where you are now on 
Nolensville Road? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I started on the Nolensville Road, but I 

first started to work for another company up- 
town on Union Street and I saw that I couldn't make it so I borrowed 
$10,000 from First American National Bank and came to Woodfine to 
start Turrentine Realty Company on its own. 

DR. CRAWFORD: And have you been here since that time? 

MR. TURRENTINE: In one, two, three locations on Nolensville 

Pike since that time. I've just been in this 
little office for the last three years. 


Well, if you started in '43, you have been 

in business in real estate about 34 years or so, 

haven' t you? 

MR. TURRENTINE: In July, yes sir. 

DR. CRAWFORD: And during that time you have been very active 

in real estate activities, haven't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, I have had the pleasure of having 

the Realtor of the Year Award, the President 

of the Nashville Board, the President of the Tennessee Board and served 

on the Washington Committee for three years, all except two months. In 
November of '63 my wife died the day Kennedy was killed and I never did 


go back to the meetings again. In '64 they gave me a Omegaton Medal 

which is the fraternity of the Real Estate Boards. 

DR. CRAWFORD: You have also been appointed to some responsible 

positions on boards by people in city and state 
government, haven't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I was sworn one of the first men in Nashville, 

sworn in to buy property for the urban renewal 
or slum clearance or housing authority, whichever the people know it as. 
I lost my first card and my second card is dated February 2, 1960, signed 
by Gerald Gimmery. 

DR. CRAWFORD: And is from the Nashville Housing Authority. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, of whom I have a right to buy still, 

if they need it. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Nashville has been a leader in the purchase of 

such lands. It is certainly far ahead of Mem- 
phis in that. It got an early start and has done more in rebuilding its 
downtown area. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I'm sorry that the highway was designed to go 

through Overton Park there and I'm sorry that 
it's upheld the highway as much as it is. I believe there should be some- 
thing worked out either over or under because our highways are going to 
become obsolete before they are complete. 
DR. CRAWFORD: And they also are having to have a good deal 

of repair before they are completed. 

MR. TURRENTTNE: Yes sir. I may not make many friends by say- 

ing this , but I believe that overloading trucks 
is not helping our highways any. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, something is breaking them up and I'm 

sure it is not the cars. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Dr. Crawford, the amazing thing to me here is, 

my daddy told me that we had to work and make 
more than we spend and I don't understand any phase of government that 
realizes that you can't spend more than you take in. But your city, 
your state, and your Federal government pay no attention to what they 
take in. They just spend what they want to. And then they adjust 
DR. CRAWFORD: Often you don't have business principles given 

much consideration in government activities. 
MR. TURRENTINE : I don't see why that being Governor of the 

State of Tennessee shouldn't be the best busi- 
ness man of the biggest business in the state. 

DR. CRAWFORD: It is when you consider the dollars that's in- 

volved in it. I don't know how much it is now 
but I know. . . 

MR. TURRENTINE: It's too many. 

DR. CRAWFORD: It's an extremely large budget. 

MR. TURRENTINE: And the thing that I am very much concerned 

about — not me at 67 years old — but I am con- 
cerned very much for my grandchildren and great grandchildren, of what 
they will have to do. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I 
am going to vote for the man that I think does the best job. Because 
as I work on commission basis myself, I think a man that does the most 


work will be paid. The reason that I am in the real estate business, 

nobody would pay me what I thought I was worth. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, you have a good deal of independence then 

in selecting who you want to support. 
MR. TURRENTINE: That's right. 

DR. CRAWFORD: If you do it on that basis. And most of your 

early association was in the Democratic Party, 
wasn't it? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. My Dad, I guess he would kick the 

slats out in the coffin if he thought I voted 
Republican, but I have many times and would again. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, at that time the Republican Party was 

not very active in Tennessee, you know. It 
really didn't get reformed and able to be very effective in the state 
level until you get into about the Eisenhower Administration. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Mr. Eisenhower was a fine general 

and a fine man to me and I had the pleasure of 
eating lunch with Mr. Eisenhower, also Mr. Truman, also Mr. Johnson, 
and also Mr. Nixon of whom I have a great respect. And Mr. Truman 
and Mr. Eisenhower — Mr. Truman is a man that I thought very highly of 
because when he thought something he said it. 
DR. CRAWFORD: He was one of the most outspoken presidents 

we have ever had, I suppose. And his repu- 
tation has improved since his death, you know. 
MR. TURRENTINE: And I have often wondered what the thing would 

have been in Cuba when Kennedy started the 

stuff there with Castro, if had it been Truman, I think it would have 
ended in a day or two. He would have told them to get his grapes clean 
or watch the apples fall and they would have fallen. Because he didn't 
quote something that he didn't mean. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, we have not had one like Harry Truman 

for a while. 
MR. TURRENTINE: They threw away the pattern. 

DR. CRAWFORD: I think they did. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Cordell Hull and Harry Truman and old Joe 

Burns, our Sixth District Congressman back in 
those days and Mr. Ed Crump from Memphis. Well, we don't have those 
kind of men now. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, I want to get around to Mr. Crump but 

for the moment let me ask first about Con- 
gressman Burns. What sort of political leader was he in the state? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Well, he was back in the horse and buggy 

days, as I call it here. He would make a 
trip from Washington. Of course, he had to then by train and my dad- 
dy would pick him up at the delivery stable and he would go out through 
the country and he would speak at the different stores on Saturday 
night and he would find out what people wanted and what the majority 
wanted and he never had any opposition. 

DR. CRAWFORD: About what years was he in office? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Let me see, Doctor, that was at least fifty 

years ago or better. 

DR. CRAWFORD: So that would have been about the 20s or 30s? 

MR. TURRENTINE: : Back in the 20s. I learned a great lesson from 

Joe Burns because he carried chewing gum for 
children, then. I heard him tell my daddy, "If you will give the chil- 
dren, the women and your mother, I'll make you do anything I want you 
DR. CRAWFORD: And he represented the Nashville District 

for quite a while in Congress. 

Sixth District. Yes sir. 

That's right, that was the old sixth back 

when Tennessee had about ten congressional 


districts, didn't it? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Joe Burns was a high type man. 

Then his son was elected on his father's 
name and he wasn't the same type person and he didn't last. 

And then since that time, the Nashville 
District, which is now the Fifth, has had 


several people in it. 

MR. TURRINTINE: Yes sir. Mr. Lor real Fulton was a fine 

gentleman and he died with leukemia, I be- 
lieve it was. And his brother Dick (Richard Fulton) filled out his 
unexpired time and was reelected each time until he became mayor of 
Metropolitan Nashville which he now serves. 
DR. CRAWFORD: And since that time, of course, you've had 

another member of Congress from Nashville in 

the seat that Richard Fulton held before. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, that was Clifford Allen. Clifford 

Allen was Tax Assessor here and I will have 
to say in my business, Clifford Allen ran one of the smoothest, best 
offices, best complete offices — one of the best. Like Mr. Rookers' 
office, well all of the offices in the Metropolitan office, I think 
ran exceptionally well by their members. One office, the Register's 
office, I remember three generations of running that office, the Wil- 
sons' — Felix Wilson and then his boy and now Felix III is head of it — 
Register of Deeds. They are topnotch. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Now, let's see, at the time you are talking 

about when you were getting acquainted with 
things in the '20s, Nashville was a lot different than what it is to- 
day. You did not have so many families and I suppose you knew all of 
them, didn't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I think so. I was born nine miles from the 

public square and between my house and the 
public square there were three drug stores. In prohibition, if you 
had sickness the doctors would prescribe whiskey just like they would 
anything else. You would go to the drug store to buy it. And my Dad- 
dy had to go to Second and Broad to buy whiskey for me when Dr. Hollard 
Tigard told him I had to have it for pneumonia. I won't say there 
wasn' t plenty of home made whiskey and wine and home-brew etc. during 
the prohibition but legally there wasn't. 


This part of the country was known as dairy farming but by individuals. 

All of those dairy farms now have been developed into subdivisions and 

even where my daddy and I milked cows and went broke during the Depres- 
sion is developed now into $50,000 and $60,000 homes. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, being in real estate business you've 

had a great deal to do with that growth and 

development, haven't you? 

MR. TURRENTINE: I have tried. Yes sir, I've developed five 

subdivisions. I go in more for commercial 

property because I think that people need not to have to drive a hundred 

miles or fifty miles to buy something if they can go four miles and buy 

anything they need. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, that is one of the things you notice 

in the changes around Nashville — that you 

really do have a lot of business centers around the city, whereas when 

you started back in 1910 everything was downtown, wasn't it? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Right. I got three parking tickets one 

day by sitting beside Montgomery Ward so I 

decided to get out of Nashville and get out on the highway where I 

could leave my car all day. 

DR. CRAWFORD: And now the city has caught up with you. 

MR. TURRENTINE: I am in the city now, yes sir. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well let's see, you were acquainted with 

Cordell Hull too, weren't you? 

MR. TURRENTINE: I have met Mr. Hull and been to the meet- 

ings with Mr. Hull at the State of Tennessee 

Fairgrounds and also old Will Rogers. I worked for Morgan Wilkerson 


at Sealtest Milk Company. Mr. Morgan Wilkerson would have a fish fry 
every year on his farm on Old Hickory Boulevard. And I had the plea- 
sure of meeting Mr. Ed Crump and frying fish for him for two years 
straight running and thought a great deal of him and he was never too 
busy to shake hands with a man that was greasy from frying fish. He 
acted like I was just as good as he was. 
DR. CRAWFORD: About what year would that have been? 
MR. TURRENTINE: The best of my memory, that was either '39/40, or 

'41, two of those years. 
DR. CRAWFORD: That was back about the time that he had finished 

his career in Congress and had already gotten back 
to Memphis. Well did he make it a practice to have the fish fry, was 
that an annual event? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Mr. Morgan Wilkinson, I believe had three of them 

and he asked me if I would help him fry fish, two 
of them. And by him being a good boss of mine I was happy to do any- 
thing he wanted me to do. 

DR. CRAWFORD: How had he known Mr. Crump? 
MR. TURRENTINE: That I do not know. He just told us all that 

worked at the fish fry that Mr. Crump was a friend 
of his and he was going to be there and he wanted us all to meet him. 
And he introduced him. 
DR. CRAWFORD: About what size were the fish fries; did a lot of 

people come to them? 


MR. TURRENTINE: I would say there would be 250, at least. 

They would be from all over the state of Tennessee 
and some out of the state. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Let's see, you would have been about 30 years old 

at the time. 

Yes sir. 

What impression did you have? Do you remember the 

first time you saw Mr. Crump? What did he look like? 

Yes sir, he shook hands with me and his little eyes 

just danced and he would look you straight in the 
eye and from that day on until today, I have been scared of anybody 
that won't look at you straight in the eye. I don't want to see a man 
wearing dark glasses and I don't want to see a man writing notes and 
handing them to me. If he's got something to say to me I want him to 
say it. 

Let's see, I was trying to remember how old Mr. 

Crump would have been then. He had white hair at 




that time? 

Yes sir. 

How was he dressed? How did he look? 

He was dressed in a white suit and sharp as a tack. 

Of course, a fish fry came in the summer, didn't it? 

That's right. But he was fully dressed. So many 

had sport clothes on and this was two fish fries with 


no alcohol served. There was just plenty of food and friendship and 

everybody had a good time. I was amazed at Mr. Crump in his position 

of shaking hands with a man that drove a milk truck. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Did he seem to get around and shake hands with every- 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Therewasn't anybody that wasn't good enough 

for him to shake hands with. 

DR. CRAWFORD: How did people seem to react to him? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Everybody seemed to be crazy about him here. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, he had a lot of folks in Memphis too, you know. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, because I went to Memphis and I would have 

to say that Mr. Crump had better alleys than we had 

streets at that time. 

DR. CRAWFORD: You did get the impression that he took care of 

Memphis well? 

MR. TURRENTINE: I know he did because I had some friends that would 

tell me that they would go in his office and ask for 

help and he would tell them what he would do and if he couldn't get a job 

for them he would help them otherwise until there was a job available. 

But he did like for people to work. As he told me he liked for people to 


DR. CRAWFORD: Well, you know at the present time Nashville is do- 
ing a lot better than Memphis in streets and munici- 
pal works, but at that time you really felt that Memphis was ahead?. 


MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. At that time Memphis was far a- 

head from us with the width of the streets. 
And they had no potholes in them, but they all had paved alleys. 
DR. CRAWFORD: They were not paved in Nashville then? 

MR. TURRENTINE: No sir. Of course, I think Nashville is the 

Garden Spot of the world, naturally by being 
here, but my children live in Memphis and I go down quite frequent and 
it's still nice. 

Well, of course your first contacts with Memphis 

were in the Crump Era. 

That's right. 

Other than the streets what — 

The zoo there which has been very controversial 

in the 1-40 loop, I wish could be settled. 

Other than the streets, what impressions did 

you get of Memphis when you first saw it? 

One of the cleanest cities that I ever was in. 

It has always amazed me how anybody else could 
beat them out of being the clean city and the beautiful flowers, the beau- 
tiful azaleas and everything. Of course that's the difference in the tem- 
perature there and here and towards Knoxville. But we have so much in 

Tennessee that nobody has ever seen so many parks. 

DR. CRAWFORD: There are a lot of different parks around the 

grand divisions in the state that are 
worth seeing, you know, just a lot of good things in all three grand 







divisions of the state. Did you feel this cleanliness and order in the 

city of Memphis was something Mr. Crump had been able to do? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Well, his understudies told me that the Boss 

said it had to be done was the way they put 
it to me and I took it for granted that he meant it by the way he looked 
at men when I talked to him. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, he had a habit of riding around town with a 

notebook and when he saw anything that needed 
doing, a street light out, grass in the the street, he'd make note 
(about it) and have it done. 
MR. TURRENTINE: And he knew who to call to have it done and 

he wasn't long about it. 
DR. CRAWFORD: How did people in Nashville in general feel 

about Mr. Crump? 
MR. TURRENTINE: There were a lot of mixed emotions about Mr. 

Crump. Some thought he was too much of a 
boss and some thought he was this and that and the other. But regard- 
less of what anybody thought, I thought that Mr. Crump was a nice fellow, 
a fine fellow and one that could — I always say that if you can if it 
don't make any difference whether you do a job or somebody else does it, 
just get the job done. Henry Ford once said that he didn't know how far 
it was to a certain place, that's what he paid that lawyer for was to 
send him a road map and make his reservation. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, Mr. Crump had plenty of lawyers and other 

people to do things like that. How did he seem 


to get along with the political leaders in Nashville that you knew? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Fine. Tom Cummings , Mr. Joe Carr, and we 

had a beer distributor who was one of my milk 
customers, Mr. John Little. He owned a beer distributor in the Watkins 
Institute at the Stock Yard. I called him Captain Johnny and I waited 
on him and he died a few years back. Mr. Johnny was about the same 
size man as Mr. Crump but he was very fond of him. 











Let's see, when did you get acquainted with 
Mr. Joe Carr? 
Oh, Lordy — 

You both go back quite a while I know. 
Joe wouldn't want me to say how long we've 
known one another I don't imagine. 
I'll be talking with him later. 
Well, you ask him, I think it was back in the 
30' s. It was before World War II. 
I know he dealt with Mr. Crump back in these 
days we were talking about also. 
Yes sir, and he gave me the impression that 
he was very fond of him. 

Well, they both had a good deal of respon- 
sibility in state politics even then. 
Yes sir. And Mr. Joe Carr has up until the 
last eighteen months, been very active in 

the state. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Yes, I was invited to his retirement dinner, 

I believe it was last summer, fall perhaps, 
but I was not able to come up to Nashville. 
MR. TURRENTINE: The last time that 1 attended a dinner with 

Mr. Carr was at the Tennessee Gator 3owl game 
in Jacksonville, Florida, when Tennessee went down there and Mr. Dickey 
gave the ball game away. 
DR. CRAWFORD: You also have been acquainted with a number of 

other Tennessee political leaders. I believe 
you are a friend of the Clement family, Frank and Annabelle. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I was talking with Frank on Thursday for an 

hour-before he was killed on Tuesday at the Third 
National Bank. 
DR. CRAWFORD: How did you become acquainted with him and what 

did you think of him as a Tennessee political 
MR. TURRENTINE: I will have to say that everybody that knew 

Frank liked him. If they didn't I don't think 
it was his fault because I think Frank Clement did more for the state, 
for the teachers and for the state employees, the blind school , and dif- 
ferent ones than any others. I have a sister retired from teaching 
school and she says that he did more for the school teachers than every 
other governor put together. However, she thinks a lot of Mr. Dunn who 
was a Republican but again I go back to the man not the party. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, they both did a good deal. Of course y 

you knew Governor Clement as a person. What 

do you think of him as an orator or public speaker? 
MR. TURRENTINE: My personal feelings, there was nobody that 

could talk like Frank Clement unless it would 
be Billy Graham to hold the attention of all ages. 
DR. CRAWFORD: On what occasions did you get to hear him 

speak? Did you hear him make many speeches? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I heard him make many speeches here and then 

he made the speech in Washington at the Demo- 
cratic — what was that meeting he held? 

DR. CRAWFORD: There was a nominating convention of the Demo- 

cratic Party. I can't remember whether it 
was '52 '56. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I don't remember which was but I heard 

...every word of it and enjoyed it because that's 
why I thought so much of Frank. I remember I got a card one morning and 
I opened it up and it said that I was a Colonel on the Tennessee Staff 
and I called him and I said, "Frank, I opened a card and it says that I 
am a Colonel". He said, "That's right Ed". I said, "Well, if I am a 
Colonel they haven't got much of an army." He said, "If I had thought so 
I wouldn't have sent it to you". 
DR. CRAWFORD: That's good. 

MR. TURRENTINE: I took Frank an antique clock for his new 

home on Franklin Road and he put his arm around 
me and there was about twenty-five people in the house and he said, "I 
want you all to know Ed Turrentine and he has always supported me and 
been one of my favorites and he never asked me to as much as to tear up 


a parking ticket." I never asked him for any favor. I've had Miss 
Annabelle at my house for country ham breakfast and Annabelle is just as 
plain as an old shoe. She told me, "Ed, I'm coming in barefoot because it's 
raining because I'm a country girl". I talked to Annabelle two weeks ago 
and she's Annabelle Clement O'Brien now. I think Annabelle was a big 
help to Frank and Ellington when everybody accused them of having that 
leap frog jump — one and then one and then one and then one — I think 
Annabelle was doing more running the state than either men because they 
were out finding out what to do. And I think Mr. Clement laid out every- 
thing for Buford to follow is the impression that I got. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, she is a very capable person. I've heard 

her speak. 
MR. TURRENTTNE: You better bet your dollar she knows what she's 

doing. And I think with the Women's Lib making 
the progress it's made in the last few years that if she ran for governor 
with her experience in the governor's chair, my opinion she would get 
a lot of votes. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, I think she would be a very good one 

if she could get elected. 
MR. TURRENTINE: She'd make a good one if she could be elected. 

DR. CRAWFORD: But she is a woman and she knows what the 

Tennessee traditions are so she might support 
someone else such as her nephew, Bob. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes, I talked with Annabelle about that the 

other day and I told her to please not let Bob 
get in this race. Because this one coming up, to me it would hurt him. 

He's doing a good job where he is and let him keep doing that job for 
another four years and see what happens. I do feel like if Mr. Dunn 
would run this time with the past experience of the present governor, 
I don't know but what he would be elected. 
DR. CRAWFORD: I agree with you I think he probably will 

not, but I think he probably could. You knew 
Frank Clement about all of his public life, didn't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. A lot of people did not like Mr. 

Clement because they said he had trouble 
with alcohol and all but I will have to say that I was welcome in his 
office and I am proud to be carrying in my pocket a state seal that Frank 
made for me on the old hand press — there it is Doctor. And I wouldn't 
take money for it. I know it's no good, but to me Frank made that on the 
old hand press, of which I wouldn't take anything for. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, it has a lot of sentimental value, 

doesn't it? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, it does. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Something made by the governor and one of the 

well-known governors of Tennessee, too. How 
did crowds react when he spoke? 
MR. TURRENTINE: You could hear a pin drop. They listened 

there wasn't any rowdy booing and going on. 
They listened to Frank Clement. 
DR. CRAWFORD: What was it about his speeches that made 

them so effective? 



His delivery, best, clearly. 

What was good about his delivery? 

Well, he just — maybe I thought a lot of him — 

you know we think a lot of our children maybe 
because they are our children, but Frank Clement was my governor. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, you know how people reacted to his 

speeches though, so I think you are right about 
that. He has a reputation as being one of the best in recent times. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I say the only other man to me that has ever 

stacked with him is Billy Graham. And I am 
not a Baptist but I think a lot of Billy Graham and I want to help him 

every year because he has done a lot of good. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, do you think that their speaking style 

was a lot alike? 

I think that Frank was superior to Billy. 

Why do you think so? What was different 

about his speaking? 

He never wanted for the right word. I don't 

know why. 

Did he have to use notes when he spoke? 

No. He just rared his head back and shook it 

and it just rolled out just like a Victrola 
and his eyes danced just like — by being part Indian myself, I liked 
him because he would look you straight in the eyes and they would still 
be dancing. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Sort of like Boss Crump? 






MR. TURRENTINE: Oh, yes Boss Crump didn't shake his head. 

He looked at you. It was the biggest pleasure 
of my life, being a country boy and not going to school and all _ to be 
able to meet and see the people that I have met. And had the pleasure 
of meeting people like Fats Everett and all of the senators and congress- 
man from everywhere and being in the Senate in Washington as I went 
every month for 34 months. The reason I never did go back, my wife died 
the day Kennedy was killed in '63 and I never did go back. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, I believe people in Tennessee have 

judged individuals more by what they've done 
than where they went to school or for how long. Evidentally,you have 
been appreciated by quite a few leaders in the state, judging from the 
things I see on your wall. I see some members of Congress. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I served on the Fire Codes Bill the whole 

thirteen years that Beverly Briley was mayor 
and then when the Cole Lead Tremble Company came into Nashville to 
make the tax assessments, Clifford Allen was Tax Assessor then and John 
Wilson, head of the Tax Equalization Board, asked me if I would come up 
there and help them straighten out this end of town. As they thought I 
had been out here as long as I had, I knew more about values than the 
people from Minnesota or wherever they came from, Pennsylvania. I went 
up and did the best job I could, but I would not have anything to do with 
anything with any property of my own, mine or my nephews. I turned that 
over to other people. 
DR. CRAWFORD: In order to avoid conflicts of interest? 


MR. TURRENTINE: I didn't want anybody to say that I had any 

influence on any of my own property or my 
nephews' property. I want to do what is right and I have gotten by now 
this long without ever having a dollar given to me and I don't expect it 
now. I carry a two dollar bill with me to where if anybody ever finds 
anybody I beat out of a dollar, I carry it for that purpose to give it to 

You'll give them two dollars. 
I'll give them this two dollar bill for any- 
body that comes in and says that I've beat them 
out of a dollar. I have had a beautiful life because I've had a wonderful 
wife and the girl that worked for me for seventeen years was a wonderful 
secretary and a year after my wife died, I married her and she has been 
my wife now over twelve years and she's good to me. I've had five heart 
attacks and double pneumonia thirteen times but I feel like the good Lord 
is leaving me here for some reason. I don't know but I am going to do 
something for somebody every day that I am able to walk. 








Well, it seems that as long as you are around 
Mr. Turrentine, you are going to be doing 

It's a pleasure. 

What changes have you seen take place in Nash- 
ville now during your adult life? 
It would take three weeks to tell them all. Be- 
cause during prohibition it was several places 


in Nashville where if you were able to get up on one of those tall stools 
and had a quarter that was your ID card to buy anything from dope to 
white lightning to pure grain alcohol and select beer. I was glad to 
see beer and whiskey come back because it was much better than what was 
being used. 
DR. CRAWFORD: You mean prohibition did not ever really work in 

MR. TURRENTINE: No sir. That was a heyday for the bootleggers. 

There was plenty of whiskey anywhere, from a 
quarter to fifty cents a half pint. The amazing thing to me that people 
would fight beer joints and whiskey stores and then they would have it in 
their own refrigerator. That was always amazing to me and by being a 
milk man I would know people would fight somebody opening up a beer place, 
but then they would have a six pack in their own refrigerator. It's just 
funny the way that people act. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, I'm not sure I understand it, but it's 

an old Southern tradition because I've seen the 
same thing in Arkansas and in Mississippi when I've been there. It's the 
same feeling I believe. 
MR. TURRENTINE: That's right. A lot of times as the old saying 

is "Powder and paint will make a woman look what 
she ain't". People I think, think they can get out and say these things 
but the true person is the one that lives at home. It takes a lot of living 
in a house to make it a home. It's not outside. 


DR. CRAWFORD: Have you always lived in this general area of 

MR. TURRENTINE: I was born and raised in six miles of this 

office but I have had the privilege of being in 
49 states and Canada and Mexico but I hope some day to go to Alaska. 
DR. CRAWFORD: That's the only one that you've not been in yet? 


DR. CRAWFORD: I think you would like it. 

MR. TURRENTINE: I've had quite a nice time at the old Alamo, 

San Antonio, Texas several times and Dallas, 
Houston, and the Astrodome, New Orleans. It's nice but being in the real 
estate business this many years and starting out on $10,000 borrowed money, 
I've had to work. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, your business has grown along with the 

city hasn' t, it? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, I had a man the last few months, last 

year to make the million dollar club in a little 
less than eleven months, and he and my wife are going to own this company 
some day because she is much younger than I am. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, the name of a company has a lot to do with 

success. The name evidentally means a lot. 
MR. TURRENTINE: I think so, when you get a letter from Missouri, 

saying Ed Turrentine Real Estate, N^olensville 
Road with no zip code or no nothing else or no number and it gets delivered 


and I sell the property, I believe it means something. Not being con- 
ceited but I believe I've got three such letters in the last twelve months. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, there are a lot of realty companies in 

Nashville, but I doubt that many of them go back 
thirty something years. If they do I'll bet there are not a lot that were 
here then. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Well, there are a lot of names still going. I 

was President of the Nashville Board in 1959 and 
then John Webb who is dead and so is the two or three others that are dead 
that have been president of the Board since I have. This is a very, very 
complicated business and I never could understand why that anything that 
was insured by the government for the veterans or FHA, why that wasn't as 
good as our paper money which says that it is only legal tender because 
you are selling a piece of dirt only God can make. You are selling. You 
are not going to sell it to a man and his wife without it being fully 
covered with fire insurance. We know that the land is not going to burn 
and yet when you get ready to sell that mortgage, you've got to discount 
it for about five percent. I told Mr. Gore one night in Washington that 
I would buy every ten dollar bill in Washington for nine dollars and a half 
if he would give me an hour on the telephone and that's what I thought 
about it. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Now that was back before 

MR. TURRENTINE: That was back in '61. I told Albert "If you 

are going to ask $800 for one of those black 

calves, if you want eight, you're not going to say you want six. You 
are going to say ten hoping he will offer you eight". So I don't think 
they do the right kind of bargaining now on the discount and I think it 
is against the veterans and the people that they want to help. 
DR. CRAWFORD: It has brought problems. 

MR. TURRENTINE: It has brought big problems and it has brought— 

if the people only knew the facts, I think the 
supply and demand is the best thing on earth instead of ceilings or 
freezing or coupons or anything else. I know back during the Depression, 
Mr. Roosevelt put the WPA. They built that ditch right over there. I 
can take you over there and show you that ditch, running across my pro- 
perty that WPA workers built. 

DR. CRAWFORD: I didn't realize that was WPA labor of course. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir, it was. Now that wasn't my property 

then. I've bought this by it being the only 
two corners going around the yard, I just wanted them and a little bit 
selfish, just two, I just wanted to own them both. 

DR. CRAWFORD: And you moved the business onto this site then? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. I have the Key building, that building 

and the Gulf station leased out. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, of the mayors that you have seen in this 

city now while it was developing, who would you 
consider the most effective leader? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Ben West and Joe Tarsh did a beautiful job as 

Mr. West was a whole lot like Boss Crump. He 


tied that bow tie, didn't nobody tell him what to do. Mr. Briley, a lot 
of people fuss about Mr. Briley drinking, but I was standing talking to 
Joe Tarsh when Beverly came by and told Joe, "I want you to keep your job 
as finance director". And I believe if you will go into any city, Doctor 
they will know Briley or Joe Tarsh and they never had any trouble get- 
ting bonds. And I will say with all sincerity and I'm not against any- 
body that Beverly and Joe could do a better job running any city if 
Beverly stayed drunk three days a week than anybody else I know of living. 
Now Ben West is dead. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, he certainly got a lot of federal money 

for the downtown programs. You know Nashville 
started pulling ahead then of any city in Tennessee. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Beverly is stubborn and mean and I tell him he 

is mean and he tells me I'm mean, but we get 
along all right. gxe got what he wanted. I talk to him every week now. 
He's in the law business. I call him Bev and he calls me Ed. I'm older 
than he or Ben either one and Ben West and Wilson West were raised right 
at the Pike here, went to Central High School. And then Carmack Cochran 
was a good friend of mine who went to law school, Carmack is 73 and after 
he finished and started practicing law he sent his older brother Bob 
through and made a wonderful attorney out of him. That's Cochran and 
Martin and Dr. Lance's grandson is in there with them. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well now the leadership that Nashville has had..? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Through Dr. Lance and the Health Department and 

we've had some wonderful doctors here that 
contributed a lot of their time to the city hospital that has been a big 
help and I couldn't give you a list of them because so many of them are 
not living. But people used to want to help people but now they don't 
know their next door neighbor. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, do you think that is partly because Nash- 

ville has grown into such a big city now? You 
used to know most of the families around, didn't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I could lay in my bed back in '32 or '33 at 

home and tell whose car that was going up the 
Pike at night, but now you don't know. You could tell by the sound of 
the car who it was. I can say this, that the real estate business has been 
better to me I'm sure than I've been to it but I have tried and I have 
sweated tears and blood and spent my money. I'm proud of every honor 
I've had with them. Even though I couldn't swap them for a can of sar- 
dines, money wouldn't buy them. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, Nashville has undergone a lot of changes 

in this time and you have seen it. In regard 
to Memphis leadership, up until '54 of course, what kind of leader do you 
consider Mr. Crump? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Knowing no other leaders down there, I have had 

the pleasure of meeting Mr. Loeb, I believe he 
was Mayor Loeb for a while, he seemed a very fair man to me. I only met 
him the one time. I think Mr. Crump had an organization that clicked 
like a watch, every part moved when it was supposed to. That's the im- 


pression that Memphis government really worked? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Accurate, just like a watch, keep 

accurate time. 
DR. CRAWFORD: I believe that was the way it really was. 

MR. TURRENTINE; Well now, I don't know Mr. Mose asked you as 

I told you a while ago, Mose has been there all 
of his life. And Mose was one of the first three Real Estate Commissioners 
that was appointed under Frank Clement, I believe. Mose Askew from Mem- 
phis, Harold Hays from Knoxville, Herbert Jordan from Nashville. Then 
when they took on the fifth one it was Jim Chamberlain from Chattanooga 
and Tom Seagrose from Shelbyville and then they change around now. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Do you know how relations were between Mr. 

Crump and Governor Clement? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I thought they were good. And I believe they 

were. Were they not? 
DR. CRAWFORD: Yes sir, as far as I know they were always good. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Well, that is the impression that I had. 

DR. CRAWFORD: I know that Mr. Crump supported him against Mr. 

Browning in '52 and so far as I know they con- 
tinued to be good after that. 
MR. TURRENTINE. I think the ones that supported Frank Clement 

they always did. 
DR. CRAWFORD: You felt that way, didn't you? 

MR. TURRENTINE, Yes sir. I'd vote for him tomorrow if he'd run 

and if he hadn't gotten killed he would have been 


governor again. That's what we was talking about the day and I told 
him, "I T 11 raise ten thousand dollars". So on Thursday before he got 
killed, I said, ''I can raise that much to go". 

Well, when he put together his other friends 
around the state.... 

He didn't back out on anything he said he would 
do. So many governors get in there and they 


forget you. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Why do you think he lost in his Senate race? 

MR. TURRENTINE: He was double-crossed because he had a few peo- 

ple that didn't like him and they got out and 

worked, they brought in a bunch of votes for him in the primary and then 

voted against him in .... 

DR. CRAWFORD: I had wondered. 

MR. TURRENTINE: That's what happened. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, something was evidentally wrong there. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Well, it was simply because people. Nashville 

claims to be the Athens of the South with 

churches and schools and so forth and so on and I'm not going to say a 

word against Nashville, however to me when you spend millions of dollars for 

buildings, but people are hungry, it doesn't make sense. Maybe I'm too 

much of a conservative. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, that has happened. 

MR. TURRENTINE: It's happening here and I'm sorry to say my 

church is doing it. 

3 1 
DR. CRAWFORD: However, Nashville is a beautiful city. I 

know there is a cost when you put that much in- 
to buildings. 
MR. TURRENTINE: But the thing of it is, that's fine, but what 

good businessman could spend a million dollars 
for a building and use it five hours a week, two hours on Sunday, one hour 
on Wednesday and maybe no more. It doesn't make sense to me, Doctor. 
Now maybe it does to them. I can't make a living in my office five hours 
a week. 


MR. TURRENTINE: That's the way that I look at it. I'm great- 

ful for the life that I have had in helping the 
Agape, the unwed mother's home, the Lakeshore Home of the Aged, of which 
I was one of the first to aid it and help start that. And then the Ten- 
nessee Orphan's homes and the Youth Hobby Shop. We have two of those. 
And then the Woodbine Boy's Club, I paid rent on a house myself for two 
years to get it started and we have a beautiful Boy's Club here. My boy 
died, but I figured that anything that I did for the boys or girls that 
if it would keep one boy out of jail for a week that I was well, well, 
well paid. That was my thinking. And when people tell me people do 
things, I don't know of a human being that is perfect and the pencil 
makers evidentally knew that because if they knew that you were going 
to make a mistake or they wouldn't have put that rubber eraser on the 
end of it. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well, that's right and we all need them too. 




MR. TURRENTINE: I'm not going to condemn anybody that's made 

a mistake because I've made too many myself. 

That comes along with trying, doesn't it? 

Yes sir. If a man don't make a mistake he has 

never done anything. 

Mr. Turrentine., let me ask you about another 

change now. When you grew up you didn't see 
a lot of Republicans around here. 
MR. TURRENTINE: No sir, it's a funny thing to me. We had quite 

a few black Republicans then as you know that 
they were all Republicans when they were freed from slavery. At the present 
time I only kn&w a few. 

Most now have switched to the Democratic Party. 

Because they want something for nothing and Mr. 

Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt was the cause of 
that, in my estimation. I'm not knocking anybody, I'm stating it as I see it 
DR. CRAWFORD: The change did occur in the New Deal time, you 

know, from the Republican to the Democratic Party. 
But the Republican Party didn't get a lot of support in Nashville before. 
What changes have you noticed in regard to the party standing in the city? 
MR. TURRENTINE: I believe Doctor, the Republican Party is fast 

growing now in the schools and I believe that more 
of them are going to — maybe like me, some people say that you mug wump 
that you are going to vote for this one or that one. I don't want to ever 
see it where you have to vote straight party because I might have to not 
go to the polls because I'm going to vote just as long as I live for the man 
that I think will do the best job. 


DR. CRAWFORD: Well, now there was a time that you often didn't 

have any Republicans running, did you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: That's right and a lot of times I didn't vote. 

I knew he was going to be elected, but I just 
didn't want him to have the satisfaction of having my vote. I don't want 
to be obligated to anybody except the man upstairs. I'm obligated to him. 
He's the only partner I've ever had in business. He and a good wife. 
DR. GRAWFORD: Well, you have a good deal of independence in 

your positions and things now. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Well, when my daddy turned the farm over to me 

when I was fifteen and told me to tell every- 
body what to do he says, "You better tell me too because everybody is older 
than you are and if you don't tell me they won't want to listen". So it 
was my job to bring home enough money on Saturday night for everybody to 
have their money. If there was any left I had four or five dollars and 
if I didn't have four or five dollars I didn't have anything. 

Nevertheless my mother and daddy never wanted for anything and never 
drew one penny from anybody else or any aid. Back then the magistrate 
said> "We can get your mother and daddy a small welfare check." I said, 
"I make enough noney my mother and daddy don't need any welfare". And 
there's no record that they've ever had a check of any description from 
the government or anybody else. They're buried in Woodlawn Memorial 
Gardens with Clark Steel Vaults. Both died in Baptist Hospital and I 
was holding them both. 

My dad said, "Big boy, the only request I've got of you is to take 
as good a care of mother as you have taken of both of us". And I knew my 
dad well enough to know that he was satisfied. And my Ph.D after going to 
school six years is the four things he told me: (1) Tell the truth. 
(2) Pay for what you get. (3) If you are going to meet somebody don't be 
late, start earlier. (4) If you take a drink of whiskey, handle it, don't 
let it handle you. 

DR. CRAWFORD. That's good advice. 

MR. TURRENTINE: It's been good to me. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, it's good to pass along to any young 

people. You have really grown up and your 
business has developed with the City of Nashville , I gather? 
MR. TURRENTINE; Yes sir. Ben West called me in one day and 

said, "Edgar, we're fixing to start buying for the 
interstate and I want you to go out to the state and get a bunch of options 
and start out and buy everything on the right hand side of Alabama Avenue 
and the left hand side of Delaware Avenue from Robinson Road back to 
Thirty-Eighth' . 

And the reason that he did that is because I had dealt with those 
people a lot of times in the milk business. And one of the funniest things 
that ever happened to me on a milk route, and don't many people remember 
Wallace University and Duncan Preparatory School, but they were both boy's 
schools. Mr. Botts Wallace, Dr. Wallace's house on Frances Avenue. She 
says, "Mr. Turrentine, have you ever seen any of our boys playing craps?' 1 


I said, 'No, mam." Now, if she had asked me if I had ever seen them 

shooting dice, I would have had to say, "yes". 

DR. CRAWFOPJ). You did get acquainted with a lot of people in 

the work that you did? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Mrs. Bernard Pinsterwald, who her 

husband owned Bert Clothing Company was one of 
the richest women in Nashville and one of the nicest people that I ever 
knew. She would holler at me plum across the street if I had on my over- 
alls. It didn : t make no difference to her. 
DR. CRAWFORD: About how large was Nashville then when you were 

a child, compared to the size now? 
MR. TURRENTINE, About a third or less. 

DR. CRAWFORD: You knew a lot of people in it then? 

MR. TURRENTINE. Yes sir. Mr. H. G. Hill started the first 

grocery store here and it was a delivery store 
at the corner of Eighteenth and State and he delivered groceries in a 
one-horse wagon and went broke and then he came back on a cash basis. 
In that store I used to leave milk for J. L. Spore, who Mr. Spores 's 
grandson or great grandson is head of the Parks part of Metro now. 
DR. CRAWFORD. Well, very often now people you didn't know you 

knew their daddy or someone. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Oh yes, I have children to come in here now and 

want to buy a house and say, 'you sold my daddy 
the house I was born in'. It kind of makes you feel like you have been 
here too long maybe but that's for the Good Lord to decide, not me. 


DR. CRAWFORD: That's a vote of confidence too. Evidentally you 

have some satisfied customers or they wouldn't 

come back the second time. 

MR. TURRENTINE: I think when I can show you a piece of property 

that I have sold seven times from $18,000 to 

$78,000, I believe that's confidence. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Was the price higher each time? 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. But everybody that I dealt with was 

happy and come back and told me to resell it. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, you have had a steady growth of your 

company and real estate values around here as 

the city grew. 

MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. When I first had that corner over 

there, my taxes on it was $99 and now they are 

$1,900, so it's upped its value a little. 

DR. CRAWFORD: Well, that's part of the whole city's develop- 

ment I suppose. Do you have any last thoughts 

about Mr. Crump as a leader? 

MR. TURRENTINE: No, as I told you, Mr. Crump impressed me so 

much by being a man of his position to shake 

hands with a man that was a milk delivery boy in a khaki uniform. A 

lot of people looked at men, service station men and people like them 

because we had to work. We didn't wear dressed up clothes. But we would 

have been just as out of place dressed up on a milk route as a pig would 

at Camelot. I will say that I don't regret one minute my daddy stopping 
me from going to school and putting me to work because he taught me the 
value of a dollar. Now I didn't want my children to ever have to work and go 
through what I did. That's the reason that I sent them through David 
Lipscomb and then on and I believe you know Dr. Batey and Mrs. Batey and 
that's my oldest daughter. And then Mrs. Reeves down there — well, of course 
I told one of the fellows down there in Memphis — I said Memphis is a whole 
lot better town now than it used to be because it's got my two children 
living in it. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well it lost Mr. Crump, but it has gotten some 

good people. 
MR. TURRENTINE: That's right. I sent two or three down there in 

place of them. I have a grandson down there who 
I hope you will know some day. His grandaddy thinks enough of him that 
I drove all the way down there to watch him play ball a couple of times. 
He is named for me and I am very fond of Eddie. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Eddie goes to Southwestern? 


DR. CRAWFORD: Yes, he was there with my son last year who was 

also at Southwestern. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Is that right? 


MR. TURRENTINE: Well my oldest son-in-law is Dr. Batey there and 

Mrs. Batey is Head of the Home Economics Depart- 
ment at Harding High School. Both of my daughers are good cooks and can 


sew. They can do anything they need to do and as I said, they had a good 


DR. CRAWFORD: Well I would gather that from what I know and I 

am glad I had a chance to know the grandson you 
mentioned, Eddie and that he could be at Southwestern with my son. They 
played ball, not on the same team. Eddie was in basketball and my son was 
in baseball and the tennis team. You have family in both parts of the 
state so I think your view of the comparison between Memphis and Nashville 
are very interesting. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Well to me Memphis is a much prettier place and 

maybe it's the flowers or maybe it's the way 
people down there take their pride in keeping their lawns. Now I think 
this, this is something— I want you to look at that picture right there 
and then I will describe it to you. That is a country ham breakfast we 
have every year at the state fair. We buy a slice of the blue ribbon hams, 
They cost you a hundred dollars, then we have a ham breakfast out of the 
prize hams. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Now let me guess, that is for some charity or 

special purpose. 
MR. TURRENTINE: That $8,600 those two ham brought last year 

went to the 4-H Clubs and the Future Farmers of 
America. Again I am trying to help somebody else. They're not as old as 
I am. They might be able to do more good in one month than I've ever been 
able to do in my life. 
DR. CRAWFORD: You have been active in a lot of things. 


Mr. Turrentine, and I am glad to look over some 
of your pictures here and see some of the people that I know. 
MR. TURRENTINE: Old Hub Walters was a fine gentleman as I know. 

Beverly Briley and I think if you were checking 
any city they know Beverly or Joe Torrence. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well I know it's almost time to stop, but let 

me ask something in regard to these different 
people you have known. They seem to generally be Democrats who knew one 
another and were pretty successful in the state. I see such people as Al- 
bert Gore and some people in municipal government as well. How did they 
get along together? Did you have any sort of general association or 
political machine? I know they belonged to the same party at that time. 
I'm guessing you saw about the same people in every campaign you worked? 
didn't you? 
MR. TURRENTINE: Yes sir. Captain Johnny Little said he could 

elect — of course we've had a fraud in politics 
here in Nashville. Mr. Nixon's case wasn't the first one. We've had a lot 
of dead niggers voted here. Mr. Lyndon Johnson, I understand, voted a lot 
of them in Texas . 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well that's one of our Memphis traditions too, 

you know. 
MR. TURRENTINE: So it's not just happened today. But a funny 

thing, Doctor back when I first voted there 
was four voting precincts in this vicinity and now I guess it's fifteen to 
twenty because it's in Metropolitan government and in councilmanic districts 

but it's a funny thing that these four stores at Tunney School and 
Whitsett School and Berry School and Ogelsby store, nobody ever knew who 
won in the Sixth District until the votes at Ogelsby store was counted and 
it wasn't seventy-five people that lived on that road but I have seen as 
high as 319 votes in that box. So it was always amazing to me how that 
many people went out there to vote. 
DR. CRAWFORD: Well it sounds a little like the Memphis practice. 

I think there is not too much difference from 
one to the other. Well this account has been very helpful and I cer- 
tainly appreciate it Mr. Turrentine. 

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