Jesse H. Turner II: The First Black American To Desegregate A High School In Memphis And Shelby County



Jesse H. Turner II, a banker and financial expert, was born on May 6, 1950, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Jesse H. Turner, the city’s first black CPA and a World War II Army Captain.

Jesse H. Turner II was the first African American to desegregate a high school in Memphis and Shelby County, as well as the first to enroll in the all-white Christian Brothers High School in 1963, where he graduated as co-salutatorian in 1967. T

hat same year, he enrolled as a mathematics major at the University of Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1971. He later earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago in 1972.

Turner returned home for spring break in 1968 to recruit students for the upcoming civil rights march. However, he learned two weeks after returning to Chicago that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis.

Jesse Turner II is married to educator Joyce Hays Turner, with whom he has four children: Jesse Turner III, Michael Turner, Christy Turner, and Brian Turner.

Turner was the Executive Vice President of Tri-State Bank of Memphis, a historically black bank founded in 1946, from 1983 to 1989. During that time, he also held the positions of Acting Auditor and Branch Manager.

Turner was appointed President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tri-State Bank in 1989. He held all three positions until his retirement in 2018. During his tenure as CEO, he increased the bank’s assets from $58 million to $126 million. He also led a group of six minority banks from across the country to lend $4.5 million to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in order to save its historically black college, Texas College, in Tyler, Texas.

Turner served as Treasurer of the NAACP National Board of Directors, Finance Council Member for St. Augustine Church in Memphis, Finance Committee Chair for Tennessee’s LeMoyne Owen College, Chair of the National Bankers Association, Chairman of the Black Business Association, Finance Committee Chair for the Memphis & Shelby County Convention Center Board, and Board Member of the Depot Redevelopment Corporation of Memph

Turner has also received numerous awards and accolades, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Memphis Branch NAACP, induction into the Christian Brothers High School Hall of Fame, an Honorary Doctorate from LeMoyne Owen College, the Freedom Award for Community Service from the University of Memphis Chapter of the NAACP, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Service to Humanity Award, and the City of Memphis’ “Be the Dream Legacy Award.”

Jesse H. Turner II has owned and operated “Jesse H. Turner, II, Certified Public Accountants” since his retirement as Tri-State CEO in 2018. Throughout the years, he has continued to serve small businesses, non-profits, and professionals while also volunteering in the community.

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