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In Memoriam - Mary E. Turkington

Mary E. Turkington

Mary Turkington, 93, KMCA Executive Director from 1968 through 1998 passed away Thursday, April 4, 2019 at McCrite Plaza in Topeka, Kansas.  A Memorial service for Mary will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, April 13, 2019 at the First United Methodist Church in Topeka, Kansas. A visitation will be held after the service at the church.  (view more)

Mary was bestowed IBTTA's highest honor in 2011 when she became an Honorary Member of the association which celebrated her years of service to the transportation industry. Below are the remarks made by 2011 IBTTA President, Frank McCartney during her induction in Baltimore, MD. 


Remarks by IBTTA President Frank McCartney (2011, Baltimore, Md)

Good morning.  I’m Frank McCartney, President of IBTTA. Today I am very pleased to conduct this ceremony to bestow the Honorary Member designation on Mary Turkington. 

Mary is with me on stage along with Michael Johnston, the President & CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority. The IBTTA bylaws describe a specific category of membership – called Honorary Members – “consisting of any individual who has made an outstanding contribution in furtherance of the purposes and objects of this Association.” By tradition, the Past Presidents Advisory Council identifies candidates to receive the Honorary Member designation.  Then the IBTTA Board of Directors formally ratifies this designation. Normally, we present the Honorary Member designation during the IBTTA Annual Meeting.  However, since we knew that Mary wouldn’t be traveling to the annual meeting in Berlin this year, we decided to bestow this honor today, at this meeting, in Baltimore.

The Honorary Member designation is the highest honor that IBTTA can bestow on any individual.  The list of past recipients reads like a who’s who of pioneers in transportation and the tolling industry going back to the founding of IBTTA in 1932. The two most recent recipients of the Honorary Member designation are Susan Buse, who served as IBTTA president in 2008; and Jim Crawford, who served as executive director of the South Jersey Transportation Authority and as executive director of the E-ZPass Interagency Group.

Let me tell you about Mary…

Mary Turkington is Chairman of the Kansas Turnpike Authority Board. A resident of Topeka, Kansas, Mary was first appointed to the Authority in May 1997 by Governor Bill Graves. She was elected Chairman of the Authority by the other board members in October 2000, and was reappointed to the Authority by Governor Kathleen Sebelius in May 2005. Governor Mark Parkinson reappointed her for an additional four-year term in May 2009. Until her retirement in 1997, Mary served as Executive Director of the Kansas Motor Carriers Association since 1968 and had worked for the Association since 1946. 

She represented the highway transportation industry before the Kansas legislature throughout her 51 years with the association. Just before her retirement, Kansas Governor Bill Graves declared January 17, 1997 as “Mary E. Turkington Day” in the state of Kansas. She has been known as “The First Lady of Kansas Trucking.”

In October of 1996, Mary received the S. Earl Dove Award at the annual convention of the American Trucking Associations. The Dove award is ATA’s highest honor.  That award is given to recognize an individual whose dedication and contribution of energy, intelligence and time have advanced the interests of the trucking industry, trucking associations and the country.  Mary was given the Dove Award in recognition of her 50 years of service to and leadership in the trucking industry.

A newspaper article that reported on Mary’s retirement from the trucking association attributed this quote to Mary: “I’m not going to go into the woodwork.”  Mary has made good on that promise. In 1998, Governor Graves appointed Mary Chairperson of the Transportation 2000 Committee – a group of Kansans whose six-month study of the state’s transportation needs was designed to create an inventory of future projects. Mary is a founding member of the influential Kansas Economic Lifelines organization and has been serving as co-chair for more than a decade. 

Mary is active in organizations that advance highway safety and the commercial vehicle industry.  She also serves on many civic and business boards. She is the past Board Chairman and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Kansas State Historical Society, Inc. She is also a current board member and past chairman of the Capital City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. In 1946, Mary was a member of the first graduating class of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.  She is currently a trustee of the William Allen White Foundation. Since 1976, she has been a member of the KU Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mary, you have had an amazing career.  We would like to share with you the greetings of a few individuals who have worked side by side with you over the years. Our first message is from former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and then the next message comes from an old family friend, former Kansas Governor Bill Graves.  Let’s watch…

Mary, your associates at the Kansas Turnpike have assembled a book of letters from friends and colleagues who wanted to share their thoughts on this special occasion.  We would like to read excerpts from four of those letters…These excerpts come from some of the many letters received from people who have worked with and served on boards with Mary Turkington throughout her career.

Scott Smith, Senior Vice President, HNTB Corporation
We at HNTB are honored to know you and work with you as a transportation industry leader, as a civic leader, and as a friend. Your leadership in the transportation industry is legendary. Kansas’ highway system is among the best in the country in no small part due to your foresight, advocacy, and commitment to working with business and political leaders to make sure that we have kept investing in our future through our transportation infrastructure.

David Stein, Manager Partner, Travelers Marketing 
The toll authority business is a loud and sometimes sharp-edged business. Yet, you, Mary, stand out as one who walks softly and speaks softly, but carries no less influence and no less impact than those in the higher decibel range.

Bill Brady, Capitol Strategies LLC, Topeka KS
The transportation system in Kansas is well positioned for the 21st century due in large part to your leadership. You would be the first to downplay your role, but in my opinion, along with perhaps a Governor or two, no one over the past several decades has left a broader mark than Mary Turkington.

James Hanni, Executive Vice President, AAA Kansas
In Kansas, you were the linchpin, the visionary, the right person at the right place at the right time to drive the creation and sustain a series of transportation funding plans that have become a model for other states. I have never observed anyone with the natural talent you have for bringing people together with a combination of articulate passion and determined leadership, coupled with the skill to help craft good public policy.


From the Kansas Turnpike Authority

For National Transportation Week, 2018, Kansas Turnpike Authority posted this video on their YouTube page thanking Mary for everything she's done to enhance Kansas transportation.


Video Credit, Kansas Turnpike Authority.