John Robert Turnbull, Jr., of Columbia, departed this life October 12, 2023 after a brief battle with cancer. He is preceded in death by his wife, Susan (Smith), and his brother, William Belvin Turnbull. He is survived by three children, Neally Lewis (Parker), elliott turnbull, and Jane Wallis Turnbull, and four grandchildren.
A native of Columbia, SC, Robert was born on August 8, 1947, the eldest child of Cornelia (Coggin) and John Robert Turnbull. Robert was an Eagle Scout and proudly served on the staff of Camp Barstow throughout his high school years. He graduated from A.C. Flora High School in 1965 and attended Clemson University. He enlisted in the United States Army at the age of 17 and served in Vietnam with B Battery, 1st/40th Artillery Battalion on the DMZ. Following his tour in Vietnam, he served as a Tactics Instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1995. During his distinguished military career, Robert was awarded the Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and others. In June of 2018, Robert was inducted into the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara by the United States Field Artillery Association.
Robert graduated from the Citadel in May of 1973 with a BA in Political Science and was a lifetime member of the Citadel Alumni Association. In May of 1977 he received a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in November of 1977. He was selected by the Senior Class of 1977 as the recipient of the prestigious Claude N. Sapp Award as the most outstanding member of his graduating class.
In his career as an attorney, Robert worked in corporate, state, and private practice. He was the first Director of the South Carolina Victim’s Compensation Fund and was named Director of the South Carolina Bar’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers Program in 2002. He retired in 2022 after 20 years of tireless work helping countless South Carolina attorneys and law students suffering from addiction and other mental health issues. Robert was able to draw on his own experience with addiction recovery, depression, and PTSD to make a personal connection with the lawyers he served.
Robert’s greatest loves were his family and his family’s homestead in Barnwell County, now known as The Hatiola Hunt. His eldest grandchild, Will, after being coached diligently to call Robert “Papa T,” called him “top-P,” and the name stuck. He was a loving “Toppy” to Will, Mollie, Janie, and Alan, and was active in the lives of nine godchildren.
A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Shandon on Friday, November 3rd at 11:30 am.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the ACOA Club for AA Recovery: https://acoaclub.com/wp/dues/