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Madigan Preventive Medicine Building memorialization

Brig. Gen. Guthrie L. Turner, Jr. and family honored

Photo credit: Madigan Medical Center

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Madigan Army Medical Center conducted a memorialization ceremony at Madigan's Letterman Auditorium on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Friday, Feb. 2.

The purpose of the ceremony was to name the Preventive Medicine Building (Bldg. 9025) in honor of the late Brig. Gen. Guthrie L. Turner, Jr., who commanded Madigan from June 1980 to July 1983.

"While the commanding general of Madigan, Turner played an instrumental role in planning for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art medical center. He worked closely with U.S. Representative Norm Dicks to obtain congressional funding for a new 1.2 million-square-foot, 414-bed medical center which began construction in 1985 and officially opened Feb. 28, 1992," according to Madigan Army Medical Center's Facebook page.

Serving in the Army from 1953 to 1983, Brig. Gen. Turner was the first African American to achieve the rank of general officer in the Army Medical Corps and the first African American to command an Army hospital.

Madigan was both the starting and ending point for Brig. Gen. Turner as he began his medical internship at Madigan, he then retired from Madigan upon relinquishing command of the hospital, and lastly, passed away at Madigan Jan. 9, 2014.

He enjoyed a distinguished military career culminating with his selection as the U.S. Army's first black physician promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

Brig. Gen. Turner first received a direct commission to 1st Lieutenant June 23, 1953, and took pride in his numerous command leadership positions. These included: Commander of Medical Company, 505 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division; Battalion Commander and Division Surgeon of 15th Medical Battalion, First Cavalry Division in Vietnam 1967-1968; Commander of Nurnberg Army Hospital in Nurnberg, Germany, 1974-1976; Commander of 121 Army Hospital in Yongsan, Seoul, Korea; and the pinnacle of his career -- the command of Madigan Army Medical Center and the Western Region 1980-1983.

He was highly decorated, earning the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptional meritorious service and the Legion of Merit for his service in Vietnam.

Not only was his military career highly impressive, but his education background was equally as impressive.

He was born May 26, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Snow Hill, North Carolina; he would later receive his bachelor's degree from Shaw University, a Doctor of Medicine from Howard University, a Master of Public Health from Harvard University, and a Master of Business Administration from Pacific Lutheran University right here in the great Northwest.

Brig. Gen. Guthrie L. Turner, Jr. is survived by his children Kimberley Green and Travis, Kevin Turner, and Karen Lee; his grandchildren Justin Woods, Kia Turner, Marshall Lee and Mariah Lee; and his wife Ellaworth Kirby, who he married June 6, 1956.

"He was a man of conviction who cared deeply about his troops," said Director of Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, who also served on the Madigan Foundation Board of Directors with Brig. Gen. Turner. "He was rock steady, focused and purposeful. Most of all, he was approachable and kind. A true servant leader."

Photo: The entire Turner family, including Mrs. Ella Turner, Mrs. Kimberley Green (daughter), Mr. Travis Green (son-in-law), Mrs. Karen Lee (daughter), Mr. Kevin Turner (son), and Mrs. Linda Wolnack (daughter) on stage for the unveiling segment of the ceremony with Regional Health Command-Pacific commanding general Brig. Gen. Bertram Providence, Madigan commander Col. Michael Place, and Madigan CSM Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bivins.

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