James Lee Turner, age 77 of Newport Beach died Feb. 18, 2023 surrounded by loved ones after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia. James was born Nov. 9, 1945 to Martyne Lanoe Black and Russell Frank Wade in Abilene, Texas. After playing varsity football and graduating from Cooper High School in 1963, James went on to study political science at the University of Arizona where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. During his freshman year, he met Nancy Odell Turner and when, according to Nancy, he showed up for their first date wearing cowboy boots, she knew she was in trouble. He swept her off her feet then and for all 50 years of their marriage.
After graduating from college, he enlisted in the Army and served in Viet Nam on a gunship platoon known as the Thunderbirds as a helicopter door gunner. He was awarded an Army commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Viet Nam Service Medal, 11 Air Medals (one for every 25 hours of combat flight time) and a Viet Nam Campaign Medal.
He returned safely and married Nancy in 1972 and attended Western Law School. James became an attorney, and he and Nancy went on to have two children, Amy and Justin. As a lawyer, James spent the majority of his career as counsel for Orange County in departments ranging from mental health, child protective services and representing the sheriff. A natural storyteller with excellent people skills, James was known for his ease and showmanship in the courtroom.
His stepfather, Elwood Turner, a high school football coach in Texas, had a powerful and positive impact on him in his formative years, which led James to coach basketball for the Boys and Girls Club and for Junior All American Football. James enjoyed volunteering at Newport Harbor High School and ran the clock for the football games for nearly 20 years. He participated in YMCA programs with Amy and Justin and loved taking the kids on camp-outs where his company was enjoyed by kids and dads alike.
For many years, James studied karate under distinguished master Fumio Demura, earning a third degree black belt. Upon retiring, James enjoyed traveling with his beloved wife Nancy, especially to Italy which became their favorite destination. A lifelong learner, he took language classes at OCC, golfed and was always happy to have a tea party with his granddaughters. Being a father, grandfather and husband were what he valued most, and James was great at it. A handsome man with a heart of gold, Jim had the burden of often being mistaken for Alec Baldwin or Richard Gere, but he shouldered this burden bravely.
James is survived by his twin brother, Michael Caine Turner of Oklahoma; his sister Sara Turner Wilson of Albany, Texas; his wife Nancy; his daughter Amy; his son Justin; his daughter-in-law Lauren; and his granddaughters Stella and Eden.
Celebration of Life will be held on March 9, 2023 at 12:00 p.m., Harborside Grand Ballroom, 400 Main Street, Newport Beach, CA 92661. PD