Dave Turner of Fort Washington has helped change the course of Prince George’s County history, simply by working to protect it, county officials say.
Turner, 65, is credited with implementing programs to ensure historic sites in the county are preserved. His work has earned him the chairman post for the Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission, which he left in June after 10 years at the helm, and the 2012 Prince George’s Friend of History award from the Broad Creek Historic District Local Advisory Council, a Fort Washington community group, in December.
“Dave has spent the last decade championing history and trying to bring various viewpoints, groups and organizations together to present a united front on history and preservation,” said commission chairman John Peter Thompson, who took over the seat when Turner stepped down.
Under Turner’s lead, the commission — a planning department subsidiary tasked with protecting historic resources and sites in the county — went from doing “brick-and-mortar rebuilding projects” to creating policies, designating historic districts and preserving black historic sites to make Prince George’s a heritage tourism attraction, according to county officials.
“I’m a preservationist. You set me down, and I go to save whatever is there,” Turner said.
“Prince George’s ought to be the premier African-American heritage county in the country,” he said. “We are the cradle of the nation’s capital, historically. ... We’re throwing away an industry we can build on.”
Turner was born in Texas. His professional career began in 1973 when he moved to Washington, D.C., as a speech writer for federal energy policy. He later became a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.
He said his passion for preservation grew after seeing the “land and beauty” Prince George’s had to offer. In 1993, he moved to the Broad Creek area in Fort Washington.
While on the commission, Turner saw that 15 county municipalities received historic district designations to help protect areas of historic value from having federal or state projects be built inside them, according to the Prince George’s County Planning Department.
“Turner shares my vision that Prince George’s has resources that can make it the preferred suburban jurisdiction in Washington,” County Councilman Obie Patterson (D-Dist. 8) said. “As we develop some properties for the future, we must maintain a balance.”
Now retired, Turner spends time with county equestrian groups, but remains an advocate for preservation.
June Dillard, president of the African American Heritage Preservation Group, said Turner’s most notable work was his commitment to preserving black history.
Dillard said that when Turner helped form the AAHPG in 2009, he was instrumental in working with county leaders to make black history preservation a priority. Turner remains a member of the founding board.
“Dave has really been able to give us direction and help us to collaborate with other groups in the county,” Dillard said. “... He’s been a real conduit.”
Lillian Beverly, North Brentwood’s mayor from 1995 to 2007, said she worked extensively with Turner to get the county’s first majority-black municipality that was incorporated by black leaders recognized as a historic district in the U.S. National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places in 2003.
“Dave has really been a hard worker in the county. Everybody really appreciates his work,” she said.