At the dawn of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, local banker Bill Turner – himself a longtime sports fan – didn’t hesitate to throw his support into the effort.
This was 1994, and founder John Q. Hammons was launching the museum in Springfield, home of Great Southern Bank, which Turner had led the previous two decades.
“I was glad to do it,” Turner said. “But it was questionable whether it was ever going to make it.”
Fortunately, Turner hung in there, partly because he wanted the museum to succeed and partly because of a friendship with then-CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews. What a 29-year run it’s been, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly honored Turner with the 2023 President’s Award.
Bill is receiving the award along with his son, Joe, now the President and CEO of Great Southern Bank. The honor is bestowed on individuals who champion the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and sports in general in the Show-Me State.
Bill saw to it that Great Southern Bank has been the Hall of Fame’s official bank ever since the museum’s inception. In fact, he served on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors for years, and eventually Joe served in that role. That seat is now held by longtime Great Southern Bank executive Kris Conley, the Hall of Fame’s Board Chairman.
What a great friendship it has been. This June, Great Southern Bank will mark its 28th year as sponsor of the Hall of Fame’s Springfield Celebrity Golf Classic. Additionally, Great Southern Bank has sponsored the Hall of Fame’s November Enshrinements in Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis over the past dozen years.
Along the way, the former Great Southern Travel, led by Bill’s late wife, Ann, was a corporate sponsor of the Hall of Fame as well. In 2004, Great Southern Bank was honored with the Hall of Fame’s John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award.
Overall, the support has enabled the Hall of Fame to nearly 30 events annually, and to operate in the black.
“Joe and I have always been involved in sports,” Turner said. “I started taking him to Missouri State basketball games when he was 5 years old. And we also support Mizzou. So we have always been interested in the Hall of Fame being a success.”
Turner grew up in Mansfield, about 50 minutes southeast of Springfield, and became one of the state’s most successful bankers.
A 1956 graduate of the University of Missouri, he initially worked for Kraft Foods Company in Kansas City, followed by the Small Business Administration and then Citizens Bank in Springfield in 1966.
“Jim Jeffries was a mentor,” Turner said of the Citizens Bank leader. “He was a terrific person, and I’ve always been grateful to him for the guidance and support. He basically taught me how to be a banker, and he was a very moral man. He set a good standard for me to follow.”
Among the lessons learned was that businesses needed to support non-profits and other causes in their communities.
In leading Great Southern Bank, Turner certainly threw his arms around numerous efforts in the community. That included the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, with Turner’s confidence in the 501(c)3 not-for-profit growing as Andrews led it for 28 years beginning in October 1995.
“He had been with Southwest Baptist University, and I knew him a little bit when he was there,” Turner said. “I’ve been friends with Jerald now for a long time. He’s done a terrific job with the Hall of Fame and the golf tournament (the Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper).”
To Turner, the Hall of Fame’s importance – and potential influence – on young people has driven much of his support over the years.
“I think it’s more important for young people coming up,” Turner said. “The main thing with the Hall of Fame is that it can get young people playing sports, or participating in a sporting activity.”
Turner volunteered that Great Southern Bank’s involvement enhances its marketing efforts. After all, the Hall of Fame is an elite institution that other businesses and individuals wish to be a part of.
Take the Springfield Celebrity Golf Classic, for example.
“Originally, it was a way of helping the Hall survive,” Turner said. “But it evolved into being a great activity for advertising. And it is reflective of our bank.”