Walter J. Turnbull


Walter J. Turnbull. The last principal chief of the Choctaw Nation to be elected is the youngest ever honored with that office. Mr. Turnbull was elected at the age of twenty-eight years. The position of principal chief was once the most distinguished office to which an ambitious Choctaw might aspire. He was elected by a popular vote after an exciting campaign of many days. Green McCurtain, several times chief, was the last governor elected by a popular vote. At his death the position was filled by the appointment of Victor M. Locke, Jr., of Antlers, who still holds the position. However, since the appointment by President Taft, the Choctaws have met in delegated conventions and chosen as their chief Walter Jonathan Turnbull. Whether he shall ever wear the headdress of the Choctaw Chieftain is to be decided by President Wilson. If he does not he remains the last elected chief.
Now serving as county attorney of Bryan County, with home at Durant, Walter J. Turnbull is one of the well educated and most talented of Oklahoma’s Indian citizens. He was born ten miles east of Caddo on July 20, 1886. The Turnbull family have for many years been prominently known in the nation of Choctaws.
Walter J. Turnbull began his education in the neighborhood schools of his home community, for two years attended the Sacred Heart Mission School near Shawnee, and in 1901 entered the preparatory department of the Durant Presbyterian College, which is now the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls. In 1905 he was graduated from the preparatory school and in the fall of 1906 entered Washington and Lee University at Lexington, Virginia, for a special course. The next year he entered the law school, and was graduated LL. B. in June, 1909. In December of the same year he was admitted to the bar and began practice at Bokchito, Oklahoma. Since 1910 Mr. Turnbull has been located at Durant, where he was first in partnership with Judge S. H. Kyle. However, in October, 1910, he returned to Caddo and remained there until November, 1911, when he came back to Durant as assistant county attorney under J. T. McIntosh, who is now state senator. In 1912 Mr. Turnbull was elected county attorney of Bryan County and was re-elected in 1914.
While in college he was a member of a college fraternity, and is also affiliated with the Masonic Order, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Woodmen of the World. In religious life he is a member of the Presbyterian Church and politically he is a democrat.
On August 27, 1910, Mr. Turnbull married Miss Lucile McCarty, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C. M. McCarty of Durant. Mrs. Turnbull was educated in the Texas Presbyterian College for Girls at Milford, Texas, and in the Central College of Lexington, Missouri. To their marriage have been born one son, Walter Jonathan, Jr., born September 20, 1912. Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull are among the leaders in social circles at Durant.