Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Famer, Athletic Footwear Pioneer Jerry Turner Passes Away at 84

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Marty Maciaszek, Team Dealer Division Director
mmaciaszek@nsga.org
(847) 296-6742, ext. 1260

 

MOUNT PROSPECT, ILLINOIS (July 10, 2019) – Jerry Turner, a 2004 Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame inductee who fueled the growth of the athletic footwear business, passed away Tuesday at age 84 in Los Angeles. Turner died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family members.

Turner was credited with inventing the stability running shoe category during his 21-year tenure as president of Brooks. He helped start the American Sporting Goods Corporation in 1983 with Margaret Oung and came out of retirement in 2017 to launch Turner Footwear during a career that lasted more than 60 years.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jerry Turner and we extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” said NSGA President & CEO Matt Carlson. “Mr. Turner was an iconic figure and innovator in the sporting goods industry. He had an amazing career and was instrumental in the running and fitness boom that started in the 1970s and continues today.” 

Turner helped build Brooks into a household name during his tenure as president in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, the Brooks Vantage was ranked No. 1 in the annual Runner’s World running guide. 

In 1975, Turner introduced the first shoe to use EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), an air-infused foam that replaced rubber and became a mainstay of running shoes throughout the industry. Two years later he introduced the varus wedge to help runners whose feet rolled too far to the inside (known as overpronation). He also introduced nylon outsoles for use on football, soccer and baseball cleats, which replaced leather soles. 

Although Turner was not a runner, he was regarded as an excellent listener who understood the needs of the athlete and was not afraid to experiment and borrow from other industries to invent new solutions. A 1974 discussion with legendary distance runner Marty Liquori, who requested a better midsole material than the rubber used in running shoes at that time, led Turner to find a chemical engineer at the Monarch Rubber Company in Baltimore to help develop EVA as a lighter, waterproof, and durable alternative. EVA was introduced the next year in the Brooks Villanova shoe — named for Liquori’s alma mater. 

In 1983, Turner started American Sporting Goods Corporation, which developed the Turntec brand of running shoes and the Nevados line of hiking shoes. The company acquired the Avia, And1 and Ryka brands and in 2011, Turner sold it to Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis, Missouri.

Turner, who was known for 70-hour workweeks, emerged from retirement in 2017 to start Turner Footwear, a performance footwear company with the tagline “Legends Evolve.”

Turner was born in Omaha, Nebraska on May 10, 1935, the oldest child of Nathan and Ruth Turner and the brother of Kaye Ann Turner and Judith Myra Turner. He graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1957 with a degree in finance.

Turner served in the U.S. Army for two years before he earned his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1960, and then he moved to the East Coast to launch his distinguished career. Turner was inducted into the Footwear News Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Omaha Central High School Hall of Fame in 2014.

Turner is survived by his wife, Margaret Oung, his former wife Jo-Ellen Turner, and three children: Suzanne Turner (David Schulman) of Washington, D.C., K. Robert Turner (Lauren Turner) of Los Angeles, and Jonathan Turner (Anne Turner) of Charleston, South Carolina, as well as stepdaughter Camille King (Terry) of Newport Coast, California. He had six grandchildren, one step-grandchild and he is also survived by a sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.

Funeral services for Jerry Turner will be at 10 a.m., Sunday, July 14 at Beth El Cemetery Chapel, 4700 South 84th Street in Omaha. Turner remained dedicated to his alma maters and endowed an annual scholarship to be awarded to an Omaha Central High School graduate to attend the University of Pennsylvania. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Central High School Foundation (http://www.chsfomaha.org/.