Judge James C. Turk, Sr. was a firm believer in giving back and helping students
When he wasn't sitting on the federal bench – which he did for 42 years – he was tirelessly volunteering his time and effort for the betterment of Radford University and his community.
"He thought one of the most important services you could provide in life was being active in the community," said Judge Turk's son, Bobby Turk, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge.
Judge Turk passed away in 2014 at age 91, but his legacy lives on through a multitude of initiatives he supported.
Judge Turk served on the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors and the Athletic Association's Advisory Council. He was a leader of the Dalton Eminent Scholars Campaign and a member of Pi Kappa Phi, in which he was his chapter's president and later served as the National President. Both avid sports fans, Judge Turk and his wife, Barbara, could often be spotted in the stands of Highlanders sporting events. He forged lasting relationships across decades with Radford University presidents, faculty, staff and students, all of whom afforded him their admiration and deepest respect.
"Judge and Mrs. Turk and their entire family have meant so much to Highlander Athletics over the years," said Radford University Athletic Director Robert Lineburg. "He loved being at the games and loved cheering for the Highlanders. Judge Turk has left such an amazing legacy in our community and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Years before Judge Turk passed away, the Turks established three scholarships to honor deserving students with interests in the visual and performing arts, athletics and criminal justice. In his will, he left an additional monetary gift that would further add to the scholarships' endowment.
Judge Turk's passion for philanthropy and education can be traced to his childhood, when he and his siblings would trudge through snow-covered farm trails to get to school. A first-generation student, he graduated from William Byrd High School then enlisted in the Army. He later graduated from Roanoke College on the GI Bill and won a scholarship to Washington and Lee University School of Law.
"He saw higher education as his way to get ahead in life," Bobby Turk explained.
Judge Turk served in the Virginia Senate from 1959 to 1972, and that same year, he was appointed judge to the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia by President Richard Nixon.
His longtime service spread from the courtroom to the community in which he lived.
Although Judge Turk never attended Radford University, one might have never known it. He and Barbara Turk lived in Radford for more than 50 years during which they gave back to their church, civic organizations, alma maters and a place "that was very special to him," Bobby Turk said.
"Radford University meant a lot to him," Bobby Turk said. "He felt it was a huge asset to the community, and he was excited to see it continue to grow."