John Kenneth Turner

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Turner and his first wife Ethel around 1920

John Kenneth Turner (1879-1948) was an American publisher, journalist, and author.

Turner's father was a printer at the Portland Oregonian and later operated a printing shop in Stockton, California, where Turner spent his youth and learned the printing business. His grandfather, a Methodist minister had migrated from Kentucky to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in 1849.

At 16, Turner began to develop an interest in socialism and at 17 published the weekly paper "Stockton Saturday Night," which concerned itself with uncovering corruption among politicians and businessmen. He studied at the University of California, where he met Ethel Evelyn Duffy. The two married in 1905 and settled in San Francisco. After losing their apartment in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the couple spent a brief period in Portland, Oregon before moving to Los Angeles where Turner worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Express. From 1908-1911, the couple were involved in the revolutionary movement in Mexico, and Turner's book Barbarous Mexico, criticizing the corruption and brutal labor system under the regime of Porfirio Diaz played a role in accelerating the revolution.

From 1912, the family lived in Carmel-by-the-Sea, where poet George Sterling let them take over his house. Turner wrote articles for the socialist newspapers the New York Call and Appeal to Reason and other periodicals. In 1915, he traveled to Mexico to report on the American occupation of Veracruz and got an exclusive interview with Venustiano Carranza, one of the key leaders of the constitutionalist revolutionaries. He traveled to Mexico again the following year to report on the Pancho Villa Punitive Expedition.

As the guest of progressive Republican Senator from Wisconsin Robert M. La Follette Sr., Turner was present for President Wilson's speech to Congress requesting a declaration of war on Germany. He opposed U.S. participation in the war and in 1922 published Shall It Be Again?, a book criticizing the war and America's involvement which was cited by, among others, former German Kaiser Wilhelm II in his memoirs on the question of war guilt.

After the war, as the prospect of yet another American intervention in Mexico arose, the Rand School of Social Science published his book Hands Off Mexico. In 1921, Turner interviewed the Zapatista general, Genovevo de la O in Cuernavaca.

The Palmer Raids of the 1920s and 1930s discouraged Turner and he ceased his writing and political activities. He and Ethel separated in 1925 and he later married socialist writer Adriana Spadoni. In 1941 he published his last book, Challenge to Karl Marx. He died in 1948.

Sources[edit]

  • Britton, John A. Journalism History; Las Vegas, Nev.5.4 (Winter 1978): 124.
  • La Botz, D. (2006). American “Slackers” in the Mexican Revolution: International Proletarian Politics in the Midst of a National Revolution. The Americas, 62(4), 563-590.
  • Eugenia Meyer, John Kenneth Turner: Periodista de Mexico. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 2005 (Spanish).