James Albert Turner

January 23, 1937January 21, 2023
Obituary of James Albert Turner
James Albert Turner of Jackson, MS, passed away on January 21st, 2023. He was surrounded by family and friends and is now with his Lord and Savior. James, or “Jimmy” as he became known, was born on January 23rd, 1937, in Louisville, MS, to James Rector Turner and Sarah Katherine Turner. He was joined 7 years later by his sister, Sarah Katherine Payne. He graduated from Louisville High School, and after first attending College of Southwestern in Memphis (now Rhodes College), he transferred to Belhaven College and graduated in 1958. He went on to the Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA, to become a minister, graduating in 1964. From a young age Jimmy had a heart for the ministry and God’s word. His beloved sister Kay recalls a teenage Jimmy gathering her and their precious housekeeper together to play church, preaching the word to them as well as playing piano and singing hymns. As a young man, he became a youth pastor in Kosciusko, MS before moving to Jackson to found the youth ministry at First Presbyterian Church. There he met Ellen Glasgow White, a student at Belhaven College, who was to become his devoted wife and constant support throughout their 54 years together. Ellen and Jimmy raised three children, and their home was filled with students meeting for Bible Study or in need of a listening ear. Jimmy and Ellen’s hearts and home were always open to others. In 1972 Jimmy met with friends and fellow ministers Ford Williams and Mark Lowry to brainstorm ideas about starting a campus ministry. Those conversations would become the foundation of Reformed University Fellowship. After serving in Assistant Pastor and Youth Minister roles in Columbus, MS and Montgomery, AL, the family moved to Oxford, MS in 1978 where Jimmy served as the first campus minister for RUF. After ten years at Ole Miss, Jimmy went on to serve in various pastoral roles around the Southeast, including South Carolina, where he was honored in 1991 by members of the state senate for his outstanding work among young people, and in Clarksdale, MS. He returned to Jackson in 1995, where he would spend years serving as Area Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Association on the University Medical Center Campus. He then went on to serve with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mississippi College and Belhaven. Jimmy’s passion for youth ministry continued throughout his life into his 80s when he was still showing the love of Christ to others and teaching them the Bible. The day before Jimmy contracted double pneumonia, just over a week before his death, he was discipling a Fellowship of Christian Athletes basketball player, helping him prepare a Bible Study that he was about to lead with his teammates. Here are some of the many moving comments that have been pouring in since Jimmy’s passing: One of Jimmy’s earliest youth group members at First Pres Jackson was Ric Cannada, a 9th grader in 1962, now Chancellor Emeritus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. He recalls that at the time this was “the” youth ministry in town. “All the other youth ministries used gimmicks, games and such, to draw in the youth. All Jimmy did was preach the word and sing hymns, but he loved us and spent the time discipling and teaching us the Bible and the group just grew.” Jimmy’s ministry through Ric extends all the way to missionary work in Indonesia. His influences from a lifetime of ministry is far reaching. Bobby Dye, who was in RUF 1981-82 said, “My mind is flooded with thoughts about Jimmy and his impact on my life. He led me to Christ my senior year at Ole Miss. He was unapologetic about the truths of scripture and never pulled a punch. That is what I admired about him. He changed my life and the life of my future family. I have often said that only God knows how wide the branches spread and how deep the roots go on Jimmy’s spiritual tree. There are multitudes of people he impacted and the people they impacted and so on for generations. That is a goal of any man is to make the world a better place when he leaves it. “ Lee Paris: Few have been used of the Lord to further His kingdom in the lives of young Mississippians more than Jimmy Turner. From First Pres in Jackson and Clarksdale to the med center and FCA in Metro Jackson to the initial Ministry of RUF at Ole Miss, Jimmy changed, molded and blessed thousands across our state and well beyond. The seeds he planted during our days at Ole Miss have born fruit for decades in our family and countless others. We will miss him, but that dear man is seated at the banquet table of Christ dining on the rewards of his life of service in our midst. Lisa Paris: Jimmy Turner was the single most profound influence in my college days at Ole Miss, shaping my worldview and preparing me for marriage and life. Mike Biggs, PCA minister said, “Jimmy was my Bible teacher at First Pres. Day School from 2nd through 5th grade, and I learned catechism from him, though I wasn’t Presbyterian at the time. Then, at Ole Miss in college, He came to be the first campus minister for RUF. Jimmy is the one God used to teach me, for the first time, what it meant to live as a Christian and how to grow and deal with sin. God used Jimmy to change my life. I will be privileged for eternity to be a jewel in his crown.” Jimmy is survived by his sister, Sarah Katherine Payne and her husband, Sonny; his children Elizabeth Turner Tennyson, David Turner and his wife, Amy; Mary Katherine Turner Gorton and her husband, Carlton; and eight grandchildren, Mary Landis Gaston, Sarah Katherine Gaston, James Tennyson, Alex Turner, Thomas Turner, Anna Turner, Caleb Gorton and Olivia Grace Gorton. Visitation for Jimmy will be from 9:00 to 11:00 am Tuesday, January 24, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church Jackson with the funeral service following at 11:00 am. He will be laid to rest at Grace Cemetery in Madison, Mississippi. In lieu of flowers the family asks that Jimmy be remembered with donations made to Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) or Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Turner family.

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  • Nathan Brown
  • Turner Brown
  • Caleb Gorton
  • Chris Moody
  • Patrick O'Mara
  • David Alexander Turner, Jr.
  • Thomas Turner

Past Services

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Funeral Service