The University of North Carolina has catalogued,
to date, about a dozen specimens collected by J. W. Turrentine.
All of these specimens were collected in Chapel Hill during the Spring of
1901, and most likely were collected for a botany class project. Since Turrentine was a professional chemist, it is unlikely
that he continued to make herbarium specimens after his undergraduate days.
Specimen collected by John William Turrentine, with close-up of label
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Herbarium
John William Turrentine
was a native of Burlington, in Alamance County, North Carolina. He entered
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1897, earned a Ph.B.
(Bachelor of Philosophy) degree with honors in 1901, and a M.S. (Master of
Science) degree with honors in 1902. 1
Turrentine is listed as an “Assistant in Chemistry”
in the list of faculty at Lafayette College in Easton Pennsylvania for the
academic years 1902-03, 1903-04, and 1904-05. He is also listed in the
Lafayette College Catalog as a graduate student in chemistry 1903-1905.
However, there is no indication that he earned a graduate degree in Chemistry
from Lafayette College 2. He earned a Ph.D. from Cornell
University on June 5, 1908.
John W. Turrentine’s likeness was on the cover of the 13 December
1948 issue of
Chemical and Engineering News
Turrentine was a chemist and authority on the
production and use of potash3. He was elected to preside over the
American Potash Institute located in Washington, D.C. in 1935, and served in
that capacity until 1948. The Institute was and continues to be a “not for
profit organization dedicated to advance the appropriate use of potassium and
phosphorus fertilizers in crop production systems.” 4
From its early days, the Institute’s
programs have been rooted in the importance of science-based information. The
first president of the organization was Dr. J.W. Turrentine,
a well known chemist and world authority on the
production and use of potash. His words to the first Board of Directors of
the Institute have endured and continue to provide a valuable message:
“…potash use depends on the recognition of its function as a plant food, which
is agronomic, and the ability of the farmer to buy his requirement, which is
economic. In fact, the agricultural usage of potash must be increased only on
a basis that is sound and profitable to the farmer.” 4
Since 1968, the organization has been known as
the Potash & Phosphate Institute and has been located in Georgia.
Turrentine received an honorary doctorate of agriculture from North
Carolina State University in 1954.5 He donated the land for the Turrentine Middle School (1710 Edgewood Avenue, Burlington,
North Carolina), and left much of his $3 million estate to a scholarship
trust for “white boys and girls who reside in Alamance County.” In 1972 Judge
Barrington J. Parker, Sr. of the United States District Court ordered the
word "white" removed from the will. Parker ruled that "[Turrentine's] dominant and overriding purpose was to aid
charity generally and to provide financially deprived students who were or
might seek attendance at the University of North Carolina."6
painted by Donald Stivers (1926-2009)7
The William Holt and Ella Rea Turrentine Memorial Education Foundation continues to fund scholarships to students of the
University of North Carolina system.
Turrentine, J. W. (1913) Fish-scrap fertilizer
industry of the Atlantic Coast. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of
Turrentine, J. W. (1913) Nitrogenous fertilizers obtainable in the
United States. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture.
Turrentine, J. W., William Horrace Ross,
R. F. Gardiner et al. (1913) The occurrence of potassium salts in the salines of the United States. Washington, D.C.: United
States Department of Agriculture.
Turrentine, J. W. (1915) The preparation of fertilizer forom municipal waste. IN: Yearbook of the United States
Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp.
295-310. pl. XIV.
Brandt, Robert and J. W. Turrentine
(1923) Potash from kelp: early development and growth of the giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera.Washington, D.C.: United States
Department of Agriculture.
Turrentine, J. W. (1915) Utilization of the fish waste of the
Pacific Coast for the manufacture of fertilizer. Washington, D.C.: United
States Department of Agriculture.
Turrentine, J. W. (1926) Potash: a review, estimate and forecast.
New York: Wiley.
Turrentine, J.W., G. A. Cowie, and G.N. Hoffer (1937) Kennzeichen des Kalmangels. Signes de manque de potass. Potash deficiency symptoms. Berlin: Verlagsgesellschaft fur Ackerbau
Turrentine, J. W. (1943) Potash in North America. New York:
Turrentine, J. W. (1945) The behavior of certain hydrazine salts on
decomposition by heat. Journal of the American Chemical Society
Turrentine, J. W. (1946) Past consumption and future (1950)
requirements of potash salts in American agriculture. Washington, D.C.:
American Potash Institute.
Dolbear, S.H., Jules Backman and J. W. Turrentine
(1946) The American potash industry. Washington, D. C.: American Potash
The following items were found by Lisa Giencke in
the North Carolina Collection Clipping File through 1975, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.
Anonymous (1966) Dr. John William Turrentine Dies In Washington. Durham Morning Herald
[Durham, North Carolina]. Issue of July 12, 1966.
BURLINGTON – Dr. John William Turrentine of Washington,
retired president and chairman of the board of the American Potash Institute
and a benefactor of Burlington city schools, died in a Washington nursing
home Monday, after a lengthy illness. He was 84.
Dr. Turrentine, owner
of a large tract of land on Edgewood Ave. that was a part of the Turrentine plantation in earlier days, gave 20 acres of
property to Burlington city schools 10 years ago that was valued at the time
at $100,000. He was present six years ago when Turrentine
Junior High School officially was presented to the public in a ceremony that
also had the unveiling of a portrait of his parents, which today hangs in the
Dr. Turrentine, a
native of Burlington, received degrees at the University of North Carolina
and Cornell University. He taught at Cornell, Lafayette College and Wesleyan
University in Connecticut.
He was a writer, an executive in the chemical
industry and gained a considerable amount of attention worldwide during World
War I by his process of extracting potash from kelp so that the short supply
of potash available in the country was minimized and the United States was
able to furnish the product’s need for military purposes.
Dr. Turrentine’s wife,
Mrs. Katherine Bacon Turrentine, died in 1948.
Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at
2 p.m. at Rich and Thompson Chapel here by Dr. Robert M. Kimball. Burial will
be in Pine Hill Cemetery. Surviving are a number of nieces and nephews of the
Anonymous (1966) Alamance man's value of estate
tops $2.8 million. Durham Morning Herald [Durham, North Carolina]. Issue of
August 7, 1966.
BURLINGTON – The estate of the late Dr. John William Turrentine
of Washington, D. C., the vast percentage of it willed to a scholarship
foundation directed primarily to Alamance County students, has been placed a
more than $2,800,000.
Dr. Turrentine, a
Burlington native and internationally known chemist, founded the American
Potash Institute and was its president emeritus at the time of his death in
Washington July 11 at the age of 86.
His will, filed for probate in Washington on
July 15, left $5,000 to eight direct decendants
[sic] of his late parents, including Mrs. Ella Rea Trollinger
of Burlington, as well as a trust fund for his housekeeper. The remainder,
according to the will, will go to the William Holt and Ella Rea Turrentine Memorial Education Foundation that will
provide scholarships to qualified Alamance County student who will attend the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Raleigh or Greensboro.
In a petition for probate that now has been
filed with the Probate Court in Washington by Fred W. Morrison of Washington,
named in the will as executor, real estate was valued at $141,683, with
personal property valued at $2,695,680, for a total of $2,837,363.
The real estate includes the Turrentine
residence and an apartment building in Washington and 71 acres of property on
Edgewood Avenue and Edgewood Avenue Ext. in Burlington. The Burlington
property also includes one-fourth interest in a store building at 318 S. Main
St. in Burlington.
Anonymous (1972) Race mention is ruled out. The
News and Observer [Raleigh, North Carolina]. Issue of July 7, 1972.
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. District Court judge has ordered the word “white”
stricken from the will of a North Carolina man who bequeathed nearly #3
million worth of scholarship funds to “white boys and girls” residing in
Judge Barrington J. Parker, denying a claim to
the money by the man’s relatives, ruled that the will is valid without the
The decision last week, made public Wednesday,
came in the case of John W. Turrentine, who died in
1966 and left the bulk of his estate in trust to Wachovia Bank and Trust Co.
of North Carolina.
Turrentine, a chemist and a native of Burlington, N.C., founded the
American Potash Institute and was its president emeritus when he died in
Washington at 86.
Turrentine’s estate was valued at more than $2.8 million. He left a
large percentage of it in trust for the William Holt and Ella Rea Turrentine Memorial Education Foundation.
The trust was to be distributed, according to
the will, in “scholarships in the form of grants and loans at the
Consolidated University of North Carolina… to white boys and girls who reside
in Alamance County… whose ambition and desire it is to attend said university
but who would not be financially able to do so without such grant or loan.”
Parker denied the relatives’ claim that Turrentine did not have “charitable intent” in making out
the will, citing the portions specifying that only needy students should
receive the money.
Parker, who is black, said Turrentine’s
“dominant and overriding purpose was to aid charity generally and to provide
financially deprived students who were or might seek attendance at the
University of North Carolina."
1. Julie Trotter, University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill Alumni Association, personal communication.
2. Diane Windham Shaw, Special Collections Librarian and College Archivist,
Skillman Library, Lafayette College, Easton Pennsylvania, personal
3. Eugene Kamprath, North Carolina State
University, personal communication.
of the Potash & Phosphate Institute
5. Pat Webber, Assistant University Archivist, North Carolina State
University, personal communication.
6. Anonymous (1972) Race mention is ruled out. News and Observer [Raleigh,
North Carolina], issue of Friday, July 7, 1972. [Entire text of this article
7. Judicial Portraits U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia.
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. http://dcchs.org/Portraits/BarringtonParker.html
accessed on 30 June 2016.