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House Speaker Biographies


Ellwood J. Turner

Born: August 9, 1886, Allegheny City (Pittsburgh), Allegheny County, PA.  Died: March 1, 1948, Chester, Delaware County, PA. Member of the House: Delaware County, 2nd District, 1925-1942 and November 2, 1943-March 1, 1948.  Affiliation: Republican.

Ellwood Jackson Turner graduated from Chester High School in 1904.  He attended Swarthmore College for 1 year, and then transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1908 with a Bachelor of Laws degree.  In 1909 he was admitted to practice law in Philadelphia County.  Turner married the former Elizabeth Addis Downing on November 9, 1911, and they had five children: Elizabeth, William, Frederick, Anne, and Ellwood Jackson, Jr.  Turner moved to the city of Chester, Delaware County, in 1912 to open his own law practice in the Cambridge Trust Building, and later moved to the Crozer Building.  During World War I he served as a sergeant in Company G, First Pennsylvania Reserve Militia.

In 1919 Turner was elected the governor of the Pennsylvania Kiwanis Club.  In 1924 he served as the vice-president of Kiwanis International.  Professionally, Turner was president of the Ridley Park Realty Company and president of the A.H. Downing & Company Real Estate and Insurance Company.  He was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1924 to represent Delaware County, and re-elected to serve 11 more successive terms.

Turner was the prime sponsor of legislation that established the Pennsylvania Aeronautics Commission in the Department of Internal Affairs, known as Act 250 of 1927.  He would later sponsor a bill, which became Act 316 of 1929, which regulated aeronautics in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and imposed the duties of the regulation upon the State Aeronautics Commission.

Turner served 4 terms before being elected to a leadership position.  He was elected as the Republican Leader from 1933-1938, and again in 1941-1942.  On January 3, 1939, Turner became the 119th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  He would serve as Speaker from 1939-1940. 

Turner was the first Speaker to use the current Speaker’s Office, Room 139, on the first floor of the Main Capitol.  As Speaker, Turner served as the chairman of the Joint State Government Commission from 1939-1942.  In 1940 he also was the chairman of the Board of Managers of the Council of State Governments.  During his time as Speaker, he was not a prime sponsor of any legislation.  Retiring from the House, Turner unsuccessfully ran for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor in 1942, only to return on November 2, 1943, winning a special election to fill the vacancy of Thomas Wood Linn, a Representative who was elected but never sworn in due to military service. 

In 1938 Turner served as the chairman of the Interstate Commission on the Delaware River Basin, which would aid him in crafting Act 123 of 1945, which promoted interstate cooperation for the conservation and protection of water resources in the Delaware River Basin.  Ellwood J. Turner would continue to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives until his death on March 1, 1948.  He is interred at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Historical Member Biography

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