Following is a brief history of John M. Turner of Chicago, Illinois with a listing of some of his achievements which should be considered in his qualifications for installation into the Drum Corps Hall of Fame.


Mr. John M. Turner was born in Maysville, Kentucky on June 10, 1884.  He served his country during World War I.  Following the war, he returned to Chicago and in 1923 became a member of the George L. Giles Post No. 87 of the American Legion.  He became an active member of the post as well as studying music in his free time. In 1938 he organized the George L. Giles Post Sons of American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps which is an offset from the Post Junior Drum Corps which was originally started in 1931.  The post also had a Senior Drum Corps.  He assisted in the instruction and composition of the drill for the "new" Son of the American Legion Drum Corps.  He also served as Manager of the Corps. 

The Corps was formed as a means of providing constructive activity for the young men who were sons of the post members and provided them with a new constructive means of expending some of the energies of their youth.

Many of the original members of the Corps served their country during World War II, as John had done during World War I.  Two of the original drummers of the first Drum and Bugle Corps were killed in action.

The Corps participated in parades and entered contests on every occasion and in 1943 the Giles Post purchased piston bugles and new drums for the Corps.  The new equipment greatly enhanced interest in the Corps and new members joined.

In 1946 this young Drum and Bugle Corps entered and won the Sons of the American Legion State Championship at the Illinois State Convention of the American Legion held at Park Ridge, Illinois.  Following this spectacular achievement, the Corps entered the National Drum Corps Association Championship at Aurora, Illinois and once again came out the winners.

In 1947 new uniforms were purchased.  The jackets had Gold and Royal Blue trimmed jackets and thus the name "Yellow Jackets" was born.  With the new equipment and splendid new uniforms more members joined the Corps and it looked like they were on the upswing.  Things were progressing so well that Mr. Turner was finally recognized for his many hours, months and years spent in the service of "his" young men by being honored as "The Man of the Year" by the Illinois Chapter of the All American Judges Association.

The Corps temporarily disbanded because many of the members were drafted into the military services of their country.  In October 1950, 12 years after he had organized the Corps a new Junior Drum Corps was born with a nucleus of ten members from the original Corps.  Rehearsals were resumed in November 1950 and it's first appearance was in May 1951.

In 1952 the reborn "Yellow Jackets" entered the S.A.L. contest at the Illinois State American Legion Convention held at Soldier Field in Chicago and came out the winner of the second place spot.

Mr. Turner was honored and recognized for his achievements, experience and work with the Corps by an appointment as Sons of the American Legion Chairman of Cook County Drum and Bugle Corps by the Cook County Commander Irving Breakstone in 1953.  That same year in April, the George L. Giles "Yellow Jackets" were honored by being selected Drum Corps of the month by the Midwest Corps News Magazine.

Mr. Turner had devoted most of his life to the youth of the community.  He not only spent his time with the Corps but he devoted additional time to the youth of the community by working as a Recreation Attendant for the Chicago Park District.  His life is reflected in the many achievements of the young men he influenced and trained.  Many young people in Chicago had a hero in Mr. Turner who gave unstintingly of his time and effort.  He affected the lives of many.  The discipline and sense of responsibility he instilled in his Giles "Yellow Jackets" Drum and Bugle Corps carried over into their lives and helped to develop their character and encouraged their endeavors.

Among the notable former members of the Giles "Yellow Jackets" are the following who can attribute some of their success to the training, respect and character they acquired under the able direction of John M. Turner. ..
          Kirk Stuart (deceased) - a Las Vegas entertainer, composer and musician
          Reginald "Sonny" Burke - professional pianist with Smokey Robinson
          Oscar Brashear - professional musician (trumpet)
          William Satterfield (deceased) - professional musician (trombone)
          Vincent Chancey - professional musician (french horn) 
          Lyle Remonde Lew - professional musician (trombone)
          Duryving Ternoir - professional musician (trumpet)
          Michael Thompson - professional musician (drums)
There are also many other former members employed in professional and semi-professional positions in both Government and private industry.

Mr. Turner is well remembered by many who encountered the "Yellow Jackets" throughout the United States during their many Drum Corps appearances.  All who came into contact with the boys and Mr. Turner can attest to the remarkable influence he had on "his" young men.  His training and sense of the proper behavior was always obvious in the young men.  They could only be called "young gentlemen".

I can attest to the tremendous influence Mr. Turner had on the lives of the young people he was guiding and the tremendous good he did in fostering the principles of Drum and Bugle Corps world-wide.  He was truly a self-less gentleman who made many sacrifices, and the glowing enthusiasm of his Drum and Bugle Corps will live long past his life time in the memories of the members of the Corps and Drum Corps enthusiasts past and present.

Elinore Topping Engel - Past member, Illinois Chapter All American Judges Association, writer for Midwest Drum Corps News, Drum Corps World, Skokie Press, Skokie Life - publicity director:  Skokie Drum and Bugle Corps at time of National Championship (before & after).

(Webmaster's note:  the original writting of Elinore Engel has been updated)

*** Did you know? ... John M. Turner, in the early 50's submitted and pushed through to the American Legion, the idea for the Junior Corps members be limited to age 21.  Now you know ...
Submitted by Roland C. Harris - Yellow Jackets