Hartman Turnbow

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Hartman Turnbow
Born(1905-03-20)March 20, 1905
DiedAugust 15, 1988(1988-08-15) (aged 83)
Lexington, Mississippi, U.S.
OccupationIndependent farmer
Known for Civil Rights Movement

Hartman Turnbow (March 20, 1905 – August 15, 1988) [1] [2] was an American farmer and activist during the Civil Rights Movement. He was also one of the first African Americans to register to vote in Mississippi in the 1960s, along with a group called the "First 14". [3]

Early life

Turnbow was born on March 20, 1905 in Mileston, Mississippi. He was the grandson of a slave. [4] He moved to Chicago, Illinois where he met and married his second wife Dee. They returned to Mississippi with their children, settling in Tchula, where he became an independent farmer and owned his land.

Civil Rights Movement

Voter registration

In April 1963, Turnbow, with a group of 13 other African Americans, including Hollis Watkins, Ozell Mitchell, and Alma Mitchell Carnegie, went to the Holmes County courthouse to register to vote. [3] [5] They became known as the "First 14."

There they were approached by the deputy sheriff who, with his weapon drawn, said to the group, "Alright. Who's first?" At that point, Turnbow stepped forward and told the deputy sheriff "Me, Hartman Turnbow. I came here to die to vote. I'm the first." Hartman became the first African American to successfully register to vote in Mississippi and the first African American to try to register to vote in the state in nearly a century. [6] [7] [8]

Soon after, Turnbow was elected delegate of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Personal life

House fire and arrest

On the evening of May 7, 1963, Turnbow and his wife were taking their daughter to choir practice at around 7:00 pm. They returned home around 9:30 pm, when his wife noticed a problem with a ventilation systems in their home. Then, around 3:00 on the morning of the 8th, Turnbow was awakened by his wife Dee who shouted to him that the house was on fire. Turnbow grabbed his rifle, went outside and began shooting at white people outside his home. [9] The house had been sent ablaze by members of the Ku Klux Klan. [10]

As an investigation unfolded, several "witnesses", all African Americans, told investigators that "no white man threw any fire bombs into [Turnbow's] living quarters but that [Turnbow] instigated this and had... other Negroes throw fire bombs into his home and he did the shooting into his own living quarters." After the investigation concluded, it was concluded that Turnbow either had set his house on fire or had been involved with his house being set on fire. He was arrested by Holmes County Sheriff Andrew P. Smith and was charged with arson. He spent two days in jail before being released on bond. [11]

Marriages and children

Turnbow was married twice and had six children, sons Jewross and Hartman, and daughters Mae Alice, Mae Bell, Mary and Christine.


Turnbow died on August 15, 1988 at the Methodist Hospital of Middle Mississippi in Lexington at the age of 83. [12] [2] [13] His funeral was held on August 24 at Rock of Ages Church of God in Christ in Tchula. Elder Fred Wade officiated with interment in the Pinkston Cemetery north of Lexington. [14]


Turnbow's courageous effort to register to vote succeeded and gave Black people in the South a voice regarding which politicians would represent them.

The unusual way that Turnbow spoke is now known as "Turnbowisms". Voting rights activist Sue (Lorenzi) Sojourner said this about Turnbow's oration:

An example of the way Turnbow spoke can be found in this excerpt, when during Freedom Summer he tried to persuade more black Mississippians to vote:


  1. ^ "Hartman Turnbow (1905 - 1988)". www.ancientfaces.com. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Hartman Turnbow: United States Social Security Death Index". Family Search. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Hartman Turnbow - Mississippi Civil Rights Project". mscivilrightsproject.org. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  4. ^ Sherrill, Robert (September 14, 1980). "Looking At America". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  5. ^ "Veterans of the Storm". www.crmvet.org. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "》Turnbow, Hartman". zinnedproject.org. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  7. ^ Weaver, Lamar; Jackson, Reuben (June 1, 2001). Bury My Heart in Birmingham, the Lamar Weaver Story:Warriors of the Civil Rights Movement. iUniverse. p. 12. ISBN  0595187498. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  8. ^ Nash, Jere; Taggart, Andy (June 1, 2007). Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2008. University Press of Mississippi. p. 113. ISBN  1604733578. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  9. ^ "Discussion on African-American voter registration (part 1)". Illinois State University. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  10. ^ "Negroes and the Gun". Fordham University School of Law. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  11. ^ Irons, Jenny (May 14, 2010). Reconstituting Whiteness: The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Vanderbilt University Press. p. 108. ISBN  0826516874. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  12. ^ "Find Hartman Turnbow Death Records". Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  13. ^ "Hartman Turnbow memorial page". Find A Grave. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  14. ^ The Holmes County Herald, page 12, Lexington, Mississippi, August 25, 1988

External links