Raymond Milton Turner

1908 - 2008

Ray Turner was an original member of the first  Voice of Prophecy radio program's King's Heralds quartet, singing with the group for eleven years, before continuing as a soloist, beloved minister, and evangelist for the rest of his life.

Ray was born in Lovett, Indiana, on October 22, 1908, one of six children and the oldest of five sons of James and Ethel Ada Coble Turner. He attended Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, where he and three Crane brothers Waldo, Wesley, and Louis, formed a quartet in 1928 known as The Lone Star Four. He met Ouida Vieve Cloninger when she accompanied the quartet and, following a courtship, they married on July 30, 1932, in Devol, Oklahoma. They would have a son, James Milton, and two daughters, Bonnie and Arlene.

Ouida had been born in Waurika, Oklahoma, on December 10, 1911, one of five children and the younger of two daughters of Otis Manly and Janette Harrison Cloninger. She would earn a diploma in piano and later a degree in nursing. She was featured in the 1930 SWJC Mizpah yearbook with a full-page photograph of her at the piano taken at the time of her diploma recital that included a sonata by Mozart, prelude by Chopin, and a work by Rachmaninoff.

The quartet was determined to stay together as a quartet when the Crane brothers left SWJC in 1928 and they decided to become nurses so that they could still perform and live on the income nursing would provide. They traveled to St. Helena, California, where they completed the nursing program and then invited Ray and Ouida, who been living near Ray's parents, to join them.

The Crane's first job after graduating from St. Helena was not in nursing but as a quartet in Oakland, California. Even though it was the midst of the Depression, the $30 a month they each earned by performing was not enough to live on. They moved south to work at the Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital, where they met H.M.J. Richards, who was serving as hospital chaplain. Their singing caught his attention, who brought them to the attention of his son, H.M.S., who was holding evangelistic meetings in Long Beach.

Once H.M.S. heard them sing and saw the effect they had on the audience, he immediately tried to obtain funding to make them a permanent part of his team. He eventually succeeded, and when the Voice of Prophecy radio program was launched in 1936, they were renamed the King's Heralds quartet in 1937 and became an important part of the program.

They stayed together until 1939, when Louis and Waldo left to attend medical school, substitutes were found. When the Voice of Prophecy radio became a national broadcast in January 1942, Wesley continued for another year and Ray continued with the VOP quartet until 1947.

Like the other members of the quartet, Ray, a basso profundo, referred to by H.M.S. as basso profundo in excelsis, had other responsibilities on the radio program. In the early years, he was unofficial manager of the group. He cared for the car during their frequent travels and assisted in the studio by directing the broadcast. It was his responsibility to start and end the broadcast on time, carefully pace it, and let Richards know how much time was left.

When he left in 1947, he and Ouida worked in evangelism, he as a singing evangelist and pastor and she as an accompanist. They worked with Fordyce Detamore in highly successful efforts around the world. He recorded an album, When They Ring Those Golden Bells, Chapel Record LPST 101, with Richard Barron, Ouida accompanying on organ.

Although they traveled widely and frequently they identified with the Southwestern Union Conference, where they performed frequently at camp meetings and in evangelism. They also participated in Family Reunion Concerts that featured VOP and other prominent SDA singers. Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, became their home base, a sanctuary during the busyness of their lives.

The Turners celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in a retirement community in Killeen, Texas on July 31, 2007, where they were a popular couple and admired for their enduring romantic relationship. They were living there when Ray died on May 15, 2008, at age 99.  Ouida died the following year on June 22, 2009, at age 98. Their son, James Milton, had preceded them; they were survived by their daughters, Bonnie House and Arlene Mitchell.


Sources: Jerry D. Thomas, "75 Years and Counting," (see following) and obituary, Southwestern Record, July 2008; Obituary, Mid-America Union Outlook, July 2008; 22; Roy F. Cottrell, Forward in Faith, Pacific Press, 1945, 44-47, 50; Robert E. Edwards, H.M.S. Richards, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1998, 158, 159, 166, 194, 202, 211; Robert E. Edwards, Hello America! 20 Years of Victory, Voice of Prophecy, 1961, 37, 38.

75 Years and Counting

Jerry D. Thomas Editor, Southwestern Union Record

February 2008 Southwestern Union Record

Ray and Ouida Turner celebrated their 75th anniversary this past year.

Celebrating 75 years of marriage is a tribute to two things: a strong constitution and a strong relationship. Ray and Ouida Turner have both. Ray was born in Seymour, Okla., October 22, 1908. Ouida was born in Addington, Okla., on December 10, 1911. So at their last birthdays, Ray turned 99 and Ouida turned 96. This is a remarkable achievement for any person, and when a couple reaches these milestones together, it is truly something special.

When Ouida was 20 and Ray was 23, they met at Southwestern Adventist Junior College in Keene, Tex. He was singing bass in the Lone Star Four when he noticed her at the piano. They were married on July 31, 1932 and began their long journey together during the dark days of the Great Depression. After living for a time at and near his parents’ home, the happy couple received a letter from members of Ray’s old quartet. They wanted him to join them in California so the quartet could perform again.

They moved to California, and in 1936, Ray took a job with the brand new radio program, the Voice of Prophecy, where Elder H.M.S. Richards invited the quartet to become the King’s Heralds. Ray sang with the King’s Heralds for 12 years, and then the couple began their long career in evangelism. Ray first served as music director for the "World-Wide Bible Lecture Team," then went on to work with evangelists holding meetings around the world. Ouida played piano when he sang and they became household names while working with such evangelists as Fordyce Detamore, Harry Dill, and Dick Barron.

They made Texas their home base and their place on Possum Kingdom Lake a sanctuary from the busy life of evangelism. But that doesn’t mean they rested while they were home. Generations grew up hearing Ray’s voice and Ouida’s piano at camp meetings across the Southwestern Union, including for many years, Possum Kingdom Camp Meeting. Their albums on Chapel Records sold across the country and around the world.

The Turners celebrated their 75th anniversary on July 31st, 2007 at their home at the Rosewood Retirement Community in Killeen, Tex., with many friends and the families of their two daughters, Bonnie House, who lives near Ardmore, Okla., and Arlene Mitchell, who lives at Possum Kingdom Lake. They are known and admired in the retirement community for their enduring romantic relationship and are often seen wheeling around together in an electric wheelchair with Ray driving and Ouida in his lap.

Funeral Tribute to Ray Turner

E. Lonnie Melashenko, Director-Speaker, Voice of Prophecy

 A prince and a great man – has fallen in Israel! My friend Raymond Turner left like he lived. Quietly. Graciously. With gentle dignity. Without demands or harsh words or even a frown he surrendered himself – a tired, humble, dignified gentleman – into the waiting arms of his Savior.

Jeannie and I heard the news from Ray’s daughter Bonnie Rae House. Bonnie spoke quietly with me by telephone and simply said, "The time has come. Ray Turner, today, on the 15th of May has passed away."

We fumble to find words to express our feelings adequately for one who meant so much to so many for nearly 100 years. Distinguished. Eloquent. World ambassador of hope for Jesus. The timber of his great big bass voice helped set the standard for excellence when he and the Crane Brothers began the Lone Star Four Quartet in 1927 in Texas. Later they were called to Los Angeles by HMS Richards and became the King’s Heralds Quartet, performing live on the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast starting in 1936. Richards often referred to Ray as the "basso profundo in excelsis."

Ray Turner's name continues to be a household word in the homes of millions worldwide. They know his voice. They know the songs. They recognized him wherever he traveled – whether at camp meetings with HMS Richards, evangelistic meetings with Harold Richards Jr., or more recently on the "Family Reunion" musical videos taped on stage at the Will Rogers Convention Center in Ft. Worth, Texas with 100 musicians. But perhaps most memorably just a few months ago with me at the annual Retirees Convention in Keene. At my insistence he walked up on the rostrum, stood up, and sang his signature song, "When They Ring Those Golden Bells" at almost 99 years of age, accompanied by his 97-year-old wife of 75 years, Ouida Turner.

At first he couldn’t remember the words, so I stood at his side to steady him as I leaned over and coached him, singing quietly into his left ear, "There’s a land beyond the river." He instantly responded and belted out the phrase flawlessly. Long pause. So I leaned in again, "...which recalls the sweet forever." For several phrases I helped him get further into the song. Then I felt an elbow in my ribs. It indicated, "I’m okay now, kid! Get lost!" Ray continued the song as I sat down and left him standing alone. When he finished singing, the audience rose to its feet with a thunderous standing ovation.

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. Ray Turner meant much to Jeannie and me when we first joined the ministry in the Southern California Conference. I was an intern assigned to do visitation for evangelistic meetings conducted by Dick Barron and Ray Turner at the California Fairgrounds. I still treasure Ray's notes for the sermon, "A Hole in the Bag," that he preached at the Pomona Adventist Church in July, 1968.

Whenever Ray sang or preached, he wasn’t acting. He opened his heart full throttle with his passion for sharing Jesus – on fire – sometimes with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.

Ray Turner touched all of our lives. And we are eternally grateful. Only in heaven will he ever know how many were influenced by his gracious ways, warm friendliness, the twinkle in his eye, and his passion for integrity and fairness.

Ouida, dear – please know that our hearts entwine around yours. We treasure indelible memories. Bonnie, Arlene, and family members, it’s difficult to say "Good-bye" to those we love so dearly. Ray leaves a huge footprint. And a legacy. A legacy of hope.

So Ambassador Raymond Turner, we salute you! Good night, Ray! We’ll see you in the morning! "When They Ring Those Golden Bells!"

Written the day of his death, Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Tribute

Elder Leighton Holley, President, Texas Conference

Our beloved Elder Ray Turner died this morning, Thursday, May 15, at approximately 8:00 a.m. at the age of 99. Ray would have been 100 on October 22. His has been a life richly lived in Christ.

He was an original bass member of the Lone Star Four Quartet, a group that became the very first King's Heralds Quartet at the Voice of Prophecy. They served for many years with Elder H. M. S. Richards and were a tremendous blessing to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Worldwide, Ray and Ouida later joined Elder Fordyce Detamore in the Far East, conducting very successful evangelistic meetings, successfully implementing major innovations in Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic methods. When they came back to the United States, they came to Texas and made tremendous contributions to our growth as a conference.

Later they joined with Elder Dick Barron in the much-loved Barron-Turner team, again right here in Texas growing God's church. Ray was more than a great singer everyone loved to listen to. He was known as a great organizer and leader of men and one of the best skilled personal workers and in-home visitors this Church has ever produced.

Literally thousands of people will be in heaven as a result of his God-led ministry. I look forward to hearing him sing When They Ring Those Golden Bells on resurrection morning. He is survived by his wife Ouida, his sister Vivian Coble, daughters Bonnie Rae House and Arlene Ethel Mitchell, and a host of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Ray's son James Milton preceded him in death.