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University of Houston Law Center remembers Professor Ronald Turner

Emily Berman, an Associate Professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Ronald Turner


June 7, 2021 - University of Houston Law Center Professor Ronald Turner has passed away. He was 66 years old.

Turner graduated magna cum laude from Wilberforce University in 1980 and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1984.

Turner joined the Law Center faculty in 1998 and was the A.A. White Professor of Law. He was the first African-American full professor in the Law Center’s history. Before joining the Law Center, he served as a labor-management relations examiner with the National Labor Relations Board, practiced law in Chicago, and taught at the University of Alabama School of Law.

“Professor Turner was cherished by our students,” said Dean Leonard M. Baynes. “He was a noted scholar often publishing in top 30 law reviews and the author of several casebooks. He was also an excellent teacher who was able to get students to discuss complex and sensitive issues in a productive manner in his classes.”

Turner specialized in labor law, employment law, constitutional law, and taught employment discrimination, labor law, torts, constitutional law, and a course on HIV/AIDS and the law.

A former research associate at the Industrial Research Unit at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Turner also served as a contributing editor for the AIDS & Public Policy Journal. His numerous publications included books and articles on labor and employment law issues, AIDS, and hate speech. He was also a Visiting Professor of Law at the College of William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law and was a Visiting Professor of History at Rice University.

Turner's Law Center colleagues, and legal academics from across the country paid tribute to his teaching excellence in the classroom and his generosity outside of it.

“Ron touched many people in so many ways,” said Professor Seth Chandler. “One thing I think about is his dedication to the promotion and tenure process at the Law Center. Ron did the work it took to evaluate all candidates fairly and to write complete reports regardless of his circumstances. I am not suggesting this achievement go on his tombstone - it will be a very crowded monument indeed if all of his accomplishments are listed - but it is emblematic of his commitment to fairness and an indomitable work ethic in matters large and small.”

“As Associate Dean many years ago, I recall reading some of his student evaluations and marveling at how many students decided to practice Employment Law or Labor Law because Ron had inspired in them a passion for the subject,” said Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson, the Newell H. Blakely Chair. “I will really miss his mischievous smile as he recalled classroom exchanges and how he put students on the spot in a way that really challenged them to consider an issue from a different perspective. He could make students squirm as he challenged them to broaden their thinking, and they loved him for it. That was part of the genius of his teaching.”

“The loss of Ron Turner is a crippling body blow to all who knew, loved, and respected him for his towering employment law and critical race theory scholarship,” said Emeritus Professor and William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law Michael A. Olivas. “His passing also should serve as a reminder to check in on friends and colleagues. I will always regret not having done so, as I had not known of his illness."

“The news of the loss of Ron Turner brings such grief and sadness,” said Texas A&M University School of Law Professor Michael Z. Green. “Ron’s skills and talents are unique in this community. He is one of a few people primarily focused on being a workplace law scholar but also versed in and dedicated to issues of race. He was an endless worker, and his scholarship was always interesting and insightful. He was smart and funny and when you needed him he was there for you to learn from and be advised by and to grow with as needed. May he rest in peace.”

“Ron was a great scholar and, more importantly, a great person,” said Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Dean and Ryan Gallo and Ernest J. Gallo Professor of Law at the Boston University School of Law. “He will be sorely missed.”

The Law Center will host a memorial service Turner at 5:30 p.m. on June 24. The Law Center will host a virtual memorial service for Turner at 5:30 p.m. on June 24. Click here for more information, including how to RSVP.

Memorial donations honoring Turner may be made to the Black Law Alumni Scholarship at Please reference Professor Turner in the "This gift is in memory of:" field. For questions, please contact or 713-743-2201.

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