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TURNER, CLYDE DOUGLAS [BULLDOG]

Clyde Douglas [Bulldog] Turner (1919–1998).
Native Texan Clyde "Bulldog" Turner was one of the "Monsters of the Midway" as a center and linebacker for thirteen seasons with the Chicago Bears. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

TURNER, CLYDE DOUGLAS [BULLDOG] (1919–1998). American football player Clyde Douglas “Bulldog” Turner played thirteen seasons in the National Football League as a center and linebacker with the Chicago Bears. Born on March 10, 1919, in Plains (Yoakum County), Texas, to Willie Lloyd Turner and Ida Fay (Rushing) Turner, he played his high school football at Newman High School in Sweetwater, Texas. Turner desired a spot on the Mustangs’ offensive line as a guard, but because he only weighed 155 pounds, he found it impossible to win a starting spot. The fact that Turner was younger than many of his classmates (he graduated at the age of sixteen) added to his lack of playing time at Newman High. Following graduation, he wanted to attend college, so he chose to work for a year as a cattle trader in the Sweetwater area in order to save money for school. The extra year also proved fruitful as he grew and achieved a weight of 190 pounds.  

The following year, 1936, Turner attended nearby Hardin-Simmons University. To impress HSU coach Frank Kimbrough, Turner chose to give himself a nickname in an effort to seem fierce and intimidating. He chose “Bulldog,” a name that stuck with him for the rest of his life. During his tenure with the HSU Cowboys, both the team and Turner experienced great success. Playing center and linebacker, Turner led the Cowboys to records of 8–0–1 in 1937, 8–2 in 1938, and 7–1–1 in his senior year of 1939.

Because he played on the football team of a small university from West Texas, the possibility of Turner attracting much national attention seemed remote. Regardless, he made the “Little All-American Team” his senior year and also received an invitation to participate in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game. At this game, he attracted the attention of several professional football scouts, including representatives from the Detroit Lions. The team’s owner gave Turner money and told him to turn down all other offers. As a result, the Lions felt Turner would be a member of their team and thus chose not to draft him. This plan backfired when the Chicago Bears, acting on a tip from a HSU fan to scout Frank Korch, drafted Turner with the seventh overall pick of the first round in the 1940 draft. Detroit, because of their earlier plans, not only found themselves without Turner, but they were also fined $5,000 for tampering.

Turner experienced monumental success with the Bears. A part of the famed, “Monsters of the Midway,” Turner played with several future Hall of Famers, including Sid Luckman, and played for Hall of Fame owner and coach George Halas. During his thirteen-year career, the Bears played in five NFL championship games, winning four of them (1940, 1941, 1943, and 1946). In the 1940 championship game, the Bears defeated the Washington Redskins 73–0. For Turner, the victory carried extra excitement since fellow Sweetwater high school alumnus, Sammy Baugh, quarterbacked the Washington team.

Turner earned the reputation as one of the most accurate centers in the league, as well as a punishing blocker. Since players competed on both offense and defense at the time, Turner also established himself as one of the leading linebackers in the game and led the NFL with eight interceptions in 1942. The play that Turner described as his favorite in his career stemmed from his role as linebacker. In a game against Washington in 1947, Turner intercepted a pass from Sammy Baugh and returned it for a ninety-six-yard touchdown.

When Turner’s playing days came to an end following the 1952 season, he had amassed an impressive list of personal accomplishments. He made the NFL All-Star team in 1940 and 1941, as well as the Pro-Bowl in 1950 and 1951. Turner also received All-Pro designation in seven of his thirteen years. The NFL later named him to the All-Decade team for the 1940s. He also received enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960 and then in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966. The Bears retired his jersey number (No. 66).

Following his retirement, Turner served as a coach with the Bears for four years. He also coached at Baylor University on the staffs of Sam Boyd and John Bridger. His coaching career wrapped up with the New York Titans (later the Jets) of the newly-created American Football Conference; he served his only year as a head coach in the NFL with New York in 1962 and succeeded his longtime friend Sammy Baugh in that position.

Turner married Gladys Webber in 1947. The two remained together for the remainder of their lives and had two daughters, Pat Turner and Sandra Shaffer. Turner lived on his ranch in Gatesville, Texas. On October 30, 1998, Clyde “Bulldog” Turner succumbed to lung cancer there. He was buried in Greenbriar Cemetery in Gatesville.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Michael Barr, Remembering Bulldog Turner: Unsung Monster of the Midway (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2013). Bears in the Hall: Clyde Turner, Official Website of the Chicago Bears (http://www.chicagobears.com/tradition/bears-in-the-hall/clyde-turner.html), accessed April 19, 2017. New York Times, November 2, 1998. Pro Football Hall of Fame: Bulldog Clyde Turner (http://www.profootballhof.com/players/clyde-bulldog-turner/), accessed April 19, 2017. Lester A. Wiltfong, Jr., “Chicago Bears Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, Unsung Monster Of The Midway,” Windy City Gridiron (http://www.windycitygridiron.com/2013/9/25/4769848/chicago-bears-clyde-bulldog-turner-unsung-monster-of-the-midway), accessed April 19, 2017.

Rob Fink

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Handbook of Texas Online, Rob Fink, "Turner, Clyde Douglas [Bulldog]," accessed May 29, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftu25.

Uploaded on April 25, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.