Ralph F. Turner Papers (UA 17.149)

268 Records


Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections

Historical Note

Ralph F. Turner served the Michigan State University community as a Professor of Criminalistics in the School of Police Administration and Public Safety (now the School of Criminal Justice) from 1947 until retiring in 1981.<br /> <br /> Turner was born on October 18, 1917 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Amanda Schmidt Turner and Ralph W. Turner.&nbsp; He received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin 1939 and an M.S. in Police Administration from the University of Southern California.&nbsp; Turner received additional education at Boston University Medical School and the Yale Center for Alcohol Studies.<br /> <br /> On June 21, 1941, Ralph F. Turner married Arnella Klug (b. May 22, 1917).&nbsp; Arnella received her B.A. from Milwaukee-Downer College in 1938, and her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1939.&nbsp; From 1939 to 1941 she was a high school teacher in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and from 1953-1962 she substituted in a wide variety of disciplines and taught English classes one full year at Okemos High School in Okemos, MI.&nbsp; From 1965 through her retirement in 1981, Arnella was an instructor and assistant professor in the American Thought and Language Department at Michigan State University.&nbsp; Together Ralph and Arnella had three children:&nbsp; Richard D. (b. August 21, 1943); Georgia C. (b. June 19, 1945); and, John F. (b. July 25, 1947).<br /> <br /> Ralph and Arnella started their family in Kansas City, Missouri where Ralph established the Laboratory of Forensic Science in the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department.&nbsp; He was laboratory supervisor from 1939-1947.&nbsp; While in Kansas City, Turner began research on alcohol use and abuse - a research project of significant importance throughout his career.<br /> <br /> Turner left Kansas City to come to East Lansing, Michigan in 1947 to take a position as Professor of Criminalistics at Michigan State University.&nbsp; In 1949, he became involved in a year-long scientific study of drinking &ldquo;under field conditions.&rdquo;&nbsp; These &ldquo;field conditions&rdquo; involved creating a social setting and getting four to six volunteers to meet every Friday evening for over a year to play cards, talk and drink at their leisure.&nbsp; The participants agreed to have their consumption tracked and periodically submit to breath, blood and urine testing.&nbsp; Campus psychologists also monitored coordination and other responses and attitudes of the volunteers of varying socio-economic backgrounds.&nbsp; The project was funded by the National Traffic Safety Council.&nbsp; It was his longstanding interest in the use and misuse of alcohol that helped pave the way toward establishment of the substance abuse program at MSU in 1976.&nbsp; He also taught a course titled, &ldquo;Alcohol - A Social Dilemma.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> From 1959 through 1961, Turner served as Chief Police Advisor to the Police and Security Services of South Vietnam under the auspices of the MSU Advisory Group (see collection UA; He then traveled to Taipei, Taiwan during 1963-1964 as a Fullbright lecturer at the Central Police College.&nbsp; From 1969-1970, Turner returned to serve as National Visiting Professor at the Central Police College by the appointment of the National Science Council of the Republic of China.&nbsp; In addition, Turner taught short courses in Guam and Saudi Arabia; and conducted MSU courses in comparative justice at graduate and undergraduate levels in London, England, from 1970-1983.&nbsp; The course in comparative criminal justice was born partially from his acquaintance with police personnel around the world and from travels that have taken him the world over, as well as a personal interest in understanding different systems of justice.<br /> <br /> Outside of the University, Turner was an advisor to President Lyndon Johnson&rsquo;s Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in 1965-1966 (Drunkeness Taskforce Report).&nbsp; In 1975 he was one of seven civilian criminology experts selected to assess the firearms evidence for the Los Angeles County Court in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.&nbsp; In the mid-1970s he was in close contact with the House Select Committee on Assassinations that considered the reopening of the investigations of the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.&nbsp; Turner was an expert witness throughout his career, often testifying in criminal and civil court cases related to firearms, evidence from crime scenes, and alcohol and alcohol abuse.&nbsp; In his police consultant service Turner worked on over 500 assignments rendered in area of criminalistics, police science, and alcohol problems.&nbsp; He was responsible for numerous publications, paper presentations on these topics, and was considered by many in his lifetime to be one of the best forensic experts in the country.<br /> <br /> Turner was a founding member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.&nbsp; Other professional memberships included the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, National Safety Council Committee on Alcohol and Drugs, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, National Council on Alcoholism and International Association for Identification.<br /> <br /> During his career, Turner received numerous awards and recognition for his achievements.&nbsp; In 1978, he became the third person to receive the Bruce Smith Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences - an award infrequently presented by the Academy, and given in recognition of lifetime leadership in the administrative and professional fields, and for Turner&rsquo;s substantial contributions to the body of criminal justice knowledge gathered during 35 years as an educator, researcher, author and criminal justice practitioner.&nbsp; In 1981 he received the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award.<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> As a professional, he was strongly influenced by the Chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin, J.H. Matthews, one of the pioneers in scientific criminal investigation, most notably in ballistic forensics.&nbsp; Turner&rsquo;s book, <emph render="underline">Forensic Science and Laboratory Techniques</emph>, was the first published laboratory manual designed to be used in laboratory course on the college level for the training of police lab technicians.<br /> <br /> Turner&rsquo;s personal life included an interest in carpentry and oil painting.&nbsp; He was an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright and his work, doing much to support the preservation efforts of Taliesin West.&nbsp; An accomplished photographer, Turner had a show of his work at the Kresge Art Museum, November 29 through December 20, 1970.&nbsp; He was an active member of Christ Lutheran Church in Lansing.&nbsp; A member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London (Baker St. Irregulars), a group of Sherlock Holmes aficionados, Turner was a founding member of a local East Lansing chapter, The Greek Interpreter Scion.&nbsp; He was intrigued by the connection between the world of real-life investigators and the fictional world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> A devoted husband and father, Turner was married to Arnella for 53 years at the time of his death on May 22, 1994, at the age of 76.

Scope Note

Materials in this series reflect Turner’s involvement in the MSU Advisory Group (MSUG) in Vietnam. Turner’s collection of papers on this project reflect largely the formal workings of the MSUG, and consequently consist largely of reports, publications, articles, briefing information, case studies, meeting minutes, notes, drafts of formal materials, and some correspondence. It is suggested that the researcher consult the series of correspondence for the time period Turner spent in Vietnam as Chief Police Advisor to the Police and Security Service of South Vietnam as part of the MSUG. Please also refer to collection UA (Vietnam Project) and UA 17.95 (Wesley R. Fishel Papers) for a more detailed record of MSU’s involvement in Vietnam. This project was established under contract through the Vietnamese Government and the U.S. Operations Mission. Arranged largely alphabetically.


Ralph F. Turner

Accession Number

UA 1230; UA 1249; UA 1250; UA 1251; UA 1253; UA1361; UA 1500; UA 1508; UA 6250
Series: 8) VIETNAM PROJECT. 1955-1971, 1981, n.d. [1955-1960]
Box 1693 Folder 49 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Agreement Between The Vietnam of Vietnam and Michigan State University -- 1955, 1957
Box 1694 Folder 1 (Completely scanned folder | 1 record)
Briefing Information -- January 1, 1958
Box 1694 Folder 2 (Partially scanned folder | 5 records)
Correspondence, May-December 1959
Box 1694 Folder 3 (Partially scanned folder | 5 records)
Correspondence, January-July 1960
Series: Scrapbooks