Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

9-19 Remembering Carl Turner and Wilson Hurley

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Old friends are tough to lose. And when you're my age, it happens more often.
Carl Turner has been a familiar face around the roundhouse for almost 50 years. It never was difficult to pick Carl out of a crowd. Nearly all male lobbyists dress in coats and ties. But Carl was as down home as they come. He did his lobbying in levis and a plaid work shirt.
On Turner, it was completely natural. He represented the New Mexico Rural Cooperative Association. He was hired as the group's executive manager in 1960 after serving a term as a member of the state House of Representatives from Socorro County.
Moving to Santa Fe didn't destroy any of Turner's rural roots. He was born in East Tupelo, Mississippi and graduated from "Ole Miss" with both a BA and a law degree. There was no bigger rural advocate than Carl.
Turner managed to find a little-known revenue stream with which he secured legislation to fund $3.5 million of college scholarships for more that 3,200 students from rural New Mexico families.
Under Turner's leadership, the statewide monthly publication, Enchantment Magazine, was created. He liked to brag that the publication reaches 80 percent of the state and is only exceeded in circulation by the Sunday Albuquerque Journal.
Turner also originated the Legislative Almanac, a 16-page, tabloid-size directory with pictures of legislators and their offices, phone numbers, seating charts, committees and electoral districts.
All lobbyists, professional and volunteer, eagerly await a copy at the beginning of each legislative session. Fortunately, copies are placed in many locations around the Capitol Building.
In the late 1960s, Turner garnered support for an interstate compact between New Mexico and Colorado that enabled the state to save and operate the narrow-gauge Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. He was the railroad's chief lobbyist and champion until late 2006.
* * *
Wilson Hurley was a man who could do anything. He was an engineer, lawyer, bank founder and fighter pilot. But most importantly, he was an artist.
We served together in the New Mexico Air National Guard. He was a pilot. I was a sergeant in the personnel office. In 1967 our unit was alerted that it would be activated soon for service in Vietnam.
One of the requirements to be ready was to fill a number of officer positions. The solution was to offer direct commissions to some of the enlisted ranks with college educations.
So one weekend, about 20 of us boarded a troop transport at Kirtland Air Force Base to fly to Santa Fe for a briefing session at the state National Guard headquarters. The pilot was Wilson Hurley.
After a day of instruction about what would be involved if we accepted a commission, we headed back to the Santa Fe airport to find Hurley sitting in the shade of the plane leaning against a tire.
He explained that the plane was "broke" and we'd have to wait an hour for a bus to come up from Kirtland to haul us back. We were all feeling somewhat cocky so we began ribbing him about the plane not being broke when we left it that morning. How did he break it and was he just not feeling up to the job.
We quickly discovered we'd taken on a master jet jockey who could dish it back faster than we could throw it. During the next hour, he captivated us with stories. Our favorite line: "I'm not scared of anything, except gravity."
Hurley was in the early stages of his art career at the time, having already been a lawyer, banker and engineer. I'm sure many of us followed his artistic successes as he quickly became a master of panoramic landscapes topped by magnificent cloud formations.
The only criticism of his work seemed to be that it wasn't realistic. But as southwesterners know, it was. Hurley had seen those cloud formations as a pilot and he developed a unique skill for translating them to canvas.
FRI, 9-19-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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