Baton Rouge philanthropist Sue Turner, who supported many of the city’s most visible arts institutions for nearly six decades, has died. She was 93 years old.
Like her late husband, Bert, who founded Turner Industries in 1961, Turner sought to improve the Greater Baton Rouge community by investing in its culture, telling InRegister in 2012, “you can’t have a successful business without a successful community around it.”
Having grown up in Plaquemine during the Great Depression, Turner attended LSU in the 1940s, where she majored in English and met Bert. The newlyweds briefly moved to Boston so Bert could study at Harvard’s business school, but they eventually returned to Baton Rouge, became parents to five children and began to nurture a fledgling business that would become known as Turner Industries.
Turner Industries executive chairman Roland Toups, who served as the company’s CEO and chairman for 20 years and maintained a close relationship with the Turners for much longer, remembers the late “Mrs. Sue” as a great visionary and leader in all the organizations she touched.
“She operated so efficiently and so behind the scenes, and she was brilliant in all aspects,” Toups says, adding that, even after Bert died in 2007, his widow would still attend the company’s meetings. “We called her our matriarch—everyone would stand up when she walked in the room. Mrs. Sue brought a sense of decorum, class and smarts everywhere she went.”
Her lifelong passion for giving back originated in the early 1960s, when she began volunteering with the Junior League of Baton Rouge at the new Louisiana Art & Science Museum.
Then, when the deteriorating main house at Magnolia Mound Plantation was slated to be torn down by developers, Turner, along with Winnie Byrd, led a successful effort to save the historic house.
As Turner Industries became increasingly successful, she and her husband began providing substantial financial support wherever they saw a need. Turner was a founding member of the Louisiana Association of Museums and served on the boards of organizations ranging from the Louisiana State Museum and the BREC Foundation to Baton Rouge Green and Junior Achievement.
With Turner’s passing, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says Baton Rouge lost a true servant.
“Her dedication and philanthropy will have a lasting impact for generations to come,” Broome says. “My prayers and deepest condolences go out to her family and loved ones during this time.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.