Pete Turnham, who served as the representative from House District 79 for 40 years as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, grew up on a farm in Chambers County, Alabama, and was active in 4-H and FFA as a youth. He went on to Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1944, a master’s degree in 1948, and an honorary degree in 1994. He also served as a dairy specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System from 1948 to 1954.
Turnham was the longest serving member in the history of the Alabama legislature and one of the longest serving legislators in the nation, earning the title “Dean of the Alabama Legislature” for his lengthy and devoted service. While in the legislature, Turnham introduced more legislation for agriculture than any other law maker in Alabama’s history. He was honored by the Auburn University Legislative Action Network with its first ever Legislative Tiger Award in 1998. The award was established to honor those who set the standard for devotion to and support of Auburn University.
He has been strong and effective advocate for agriculture, education, mental health, and industrial development. Turnham was instrumental in the passage of legislation developing community mental health centers, providing funding for health and educational construction, and encouraging higher education and K-12 to agree to a financing formula for educational funds, and was a staunch advocate for providing a kindergarten education in Alabama.
Turnham retired from the legislature in 1998 after serving under nine speakers of the house and nine governors. During his 10 consecutive terms of office, Turnham faithfully and diligently represented Lee County and Auburn University. Turnham also served his country with honor and patriotism as a decorated combat veteran and Army platoon leader in World War II in the European Theatre.
In addition to his work as a public servant, Turnham was president of Alabama Contract Sales in Auburn, where he remains active today. He also is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture, Phi Delta Kappa Honor Society of Education, and is active in the Baptist church.