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Benjamin Sterling Turner
Buried: Live Oak Cemetery Division C Lot 55
(Mar 17, 1825–Mar 21, 1894; aged 69 years) was born into slavery in Halifax County, NC and was brought to Alabama along with his brother in 1855. Turner received no early education but by clandestine study he obtained a fair education.
Turner was later sold to Dr. James T. Gee, the proprietor of the St. James Hotel. When Dr. Gee went off to fight during the Civil War he left Turner to run his hotel. Turner was said to be a sturdy, powerful man, who handled all the passengers’ baggage in transit to and from the railroad station. Turner also engaged in mercantile pursuits and set up a livery stable in Selma.
At the end of the Civil War he became a free man, the “remarkably efficient servant” quickly made himself the richest black man in Dallas County. He joined the Republican Party after the Civil War and was elected tax collector of Dallas County, Alabama in 1867. He served as councilman of the city of Selma in 1869. He then campaigned and was elected in 1871 as Alabama’s first African American congressman.