State Rep. Johnnie Turner of Memphis announces retirement

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ‚ÄĒFor decades she's been a foot soldier and a leader of the civil rights movement and most recently a lawmaker in the Tennessee General Assembly, but soon representative Johnnie Turner will be citizen Johnnie Turner.

"This means today it is time to go, This is to officially announce I am retiring as representative for District 85, a position I have proudly held for the past eight years," Turner said.

Surrounded by fellow lawmakers, and friends at the NAACP headquarters on Vance, Representative Turner announced Friday she will not run for re-election when her current term ends later this year. She has been a member of the Tennessee state legislature since 2010 when she succeeded her late husband, Representative Larry Turner.

"I tried to do it(retire) two years ago, but my leadership talked me out of it. They say you can't go Johnnie. You are the conscience of the legislature."

Turner, who served as executive director of the NAACP, played a major role in the sit-in movement and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and was inspired to help African-Americans achieve equality.

"Every march Dr. King led during the sanitation strike I was there and every speech he gave during that turbulent time I was there and the one gave April 3 at Mason Temple I was there. He inspired me to help other people."

One of her biggest legislative accomplishments was sponsoring legislation to investigate unsolved cold cases of the civil rights era.

"It is the only bill of its kind in the nation. We are hoping it serves as a role model to bring justice to those whose lives were taken simply because of the color of their skin and to give the families the opportunity to heal from the harm and hurt and fear and anger."

And even though this civil rights icon is walking away from the General Assembly, Representative Turner takes pride in retiring in a year when the world will reflect on the life and work of Dr. King

"We are commemorating the 50 anniversary of his(Dr. King) death, maybe in some small way the lord is saying, I've got some other ambassadors, it's time for you to go home sister and take some rest, but you know I'm not going to rest(laughter). "

Rep. Turner said she will officially retire in November of 2018. She said right now she is not endorsing any candidate to fill her position in the legislature.