By Brenda Young
Born on a ranch in Liberty Hill in 1925, Roy Lee “Preacher” Turner will be one of four nominees inducted into the Liberty Hill Cowboy Hall of Fame May 9 as part of the three-day Liberty Hill Pro Rodeo hosted by the Williamson County Cowboy Church.
As a cutting horse trainer by profession, Turner passed away at the age of 84, just four days before his birthday in October 2009. Turner’s family will be present Friday to receive the posthumous award in his honor.
“Everybody around Liberty Hill remembers him only as ‘Preacher,’ and I still don’t know why,” said Turner’s son, Dennis Turner. “My daddy went to school with Elroy Foust and all these other well-known cowboys.”
Turner’s childhood friend, Elroy Foust, was the first person inducted into Liberty Hill’s Cowboy Hall of Fame two years ago.
Turner served in the U.S. Army for three years, from 1943 to 1946, and he spent the majority of his life in Webberville, working on the Howard Rivers Ranch from 1956 to 1984. It was here Turner and his wife Mildred raised their seven children.
“He was very well known for quite some time as one of the best horse trainers in Central Texas,” said his daughter-in-law and Dennis’ wife, Lois Turner. “He won a lot of different awards, and several of the horses he trained were American Cutting Horse Association champions.”
According to Dennis, his father traveled extensively throughout Texas to attend cutting horse events and rodeos.
In addition to winning a wide array of belt buckles, saddles and trophies, Turner’s horses won the Horse of the Year Award from the Central Texas Cutting Horse Association five times in a row. He was also presented a Horse of the Year Award from the South Texas Cutting Horse Association, and he won numerous best all-around awards from the American Quarter Horse Association.
Out of seven children, Dennis said he was the only one who followed directly in his father’s footsteps to learn the art of cutting horses, and his brothers and sisters became involved in sports and a variety of other activities as they grew up.
“Cutting horses was his (Roy Turner’s) love, and he was really good at it,” Lois said. “It was something he instilled in Dennis and some of his grandchildren, who went into rodeo, too. He was so ecstatic to watch the kids do well.”
With his father by his side, Dennis won a state championship for cutting horses, and Dennis and Lois’ daughter went to the state championships in other rodeo events during her years in high school.
“He was so proud; he would talk about his kids and grandkids and how happy he was for what they were doing,” Lois said. “His happiness wasn’t limited to the sport of rodeo; a lot of them played sports, like baseball, and he was a very, very proud father and grandfather.”
After leaving the Rivers Ranch in 1984, Turner returned to Briggs and the Central Texas area to enjoy retirement.
Dennis thought carefully about what was the most important lesson he learned from his father.
“Never give up — always have hope,” he said. “We had a horse I had to ride six miles a day, every day, seven days a week, for training. I was only 14 years old at the time, but that’s how dedicated I was.”
Although the training schedule was rigorous, Dennis took to heart the words his father gave him.
Turner told his son that hard-earned dedication was necessary to make his efforts successful. It was a lesson that definitely paid off, as that was the year Dennis rose through the ranks and won the high school state championship in the cutting horse event in 1975.