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Obituary (MO): Robert Lake Turnage '52

Posted on 08/02/2018

ROBERT LAKE TURNAGE A life filled with service to others that began as a young Eagle Scout and led to a military career pinnacle of being named the Commanding Officer of a Navy destroyer and a Naval Weapons Station, reached its conclusion on July 24, 2018. Captain Robert Lake Turnage, USN (Ret.) passed away peacefully in Birmingham, Alabama on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. He was 89. Robert was born on May 5, 1929 in Harrison Arkansas to James Girault Turnage and Frances Henwood Turnage. He became an Eagle Scout as a sophomore and graduated from Grenada (Mississippi) High School as valedictorian in 1947. He attended Mississippi State University before receiving his appointment to the United States Naval Academy, class of 1952. He served many positions within the Navy including Gunnery Officer and Assistant Engineering Officer . After receiving a degree in Engineering Electronics, he assumed a new position as Main Propulsion Assistant. At one time he was Squadron Operations, Engineering and Project Officer at the same time. In 1966 he served as Executive Officer (second-in-command) of the USS Henry B. Wilson. For the next three years, Turnage was assigned to U.S. Naval Ordinance Systems Command in Washington, D.C. In 1969, he became the Commanding Officer of a destroyer, USS Duncan, nicknamed the Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast. During his command on the Duncan, he earned a Bronze Star and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Bronze Star for exceptional leadership during combat operations against North Vietnam in the Sea of Japan. From there he moved up to a guided missile cruiser, the USS Chicago (CG-11) as Executive Officer. From 1972 to 1975 he attended George Washington University where he earned a Masters degree in financial management. Captain Turnage was then assigned to duty at Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, South Carolina where he was the base Commanding Officer from 1975-1979 and was awarded the meritorious service medal for his leadership of the base. Captain Turnage considered this duty to be the highlight of his Naval career and thereafter retired to Columbus, Mississippi, where he was a deacon, Sunday School Teacher and active member of the First Baptist Church. After his retirement from the Navy, Captain Turnage re-enrolled at Mississippi State and obtained a degree in civil engineering in 1981 and his Professional Engineer certificate in 1982. He then worked at the Columbus Air Force Base in its Environmental Contract Planning and Base Civil Engineering departments for many years, receiving his 50 Year Federal Service Certificate in 2001. In May of 2003 he married Nancy Angell and moved to live in her home of Birmingham, Alabama and became an active member of the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, PCA. Captain Turnage was preceded in death by his mother, father, brothers Harold, Joe and James Girault, Jr. and his first wife Rebecca Johnson Turnage. He is survived by his wife Nancy Turnage, his sister, Marie Hurst, his three children, Edwin, Terry and Jeffrey Turnage and his grandchildren, Emily, Jackson and Nathan Turnage and William and Celeste McKeon. Visitation will be held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church PCA in Birmingham, AL at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 27, 2018 with a memorial service to follow at 11 a.m. at the church. A graveside service and internment will be held at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, MS on Friday, July 27, 2018 at 3 p.m.. Dr. Shawn Parker will lead the service in Columbus.