Robert Turpin – LHS Alumna – Class of 1939
by Lynne Belluscio
Dorothy Russell Rooney stopped by this past week with some newspaper clippings and her old 1939 Oatkan. As we thumbed through the yearbook she shared some stories. Then she pointed out a photo of one of her classmates, Robert Turpin. She handed me a printout of his obituary from the Lansing State Journal of August 28, 2015. “He was a remarkable student,” she said. “ I was valedictorian but he should have been selected. It probably was because he was African-American.” I read through his profile – baseball, basketball, track, football, orchestra, boys glee club, Student Council Citizenship Medal, First prize speaking context, Larkin Speaking Contest, debate team, president of the junior class, assembly committee, chairman of the Block L” committee, vice president of the student council in his senior year, National Honor Society in junior and senior year, business manager of the O-at-kan. Robert Turpin was no ordinary student. Dorothy told me that he had come to LeRoy with his family when his father became minister of the Second Baptist Church on Myrtle Street. They lived in LeRoy about ten years and after graduation, the family moved to Flint, Michigan where his father was assigned to a new church. In the meantime, Robert went on to Oberlin College to study pre-medicine and then on to dental school in Nashville, Tennesee.
Robert was born on November 17, 1921 in Birmingham, Alabama in the parsonage of the 16th Street Baptist Church. (In 1963, four girls were killed in this church when the KKK bombed the building.) After dental school, Robert Turpin moved to Pontiac and opened his dental practice in 1947.