Thomas W. Turner, a biologist, educator, civil rights pioneer and Catholic activist, died of pneumonia Friday at Providence Hospital.
He had marked his 101st birthday on March 16.
As one of nine children born to former slaves who were sharecroppers in Charles County in southern Maryland, he "came out of the woods," as he liked to say, to become a leading black figure. His honors were many.
In 1976, the Secretarist of Black Catholics of Washington named its highest achievement award in his honor. The first Turner award was presented to Clarence Mitchell, head of the Washington Chpater of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Dr. Turner, a charter member of the NAACP, had been chairman of the first citywide membership drive in Washington in 1915. Later he was named a life member.
In 1976, he was given an honorary doctor of science degree by Catholic University. He was taking graduate work there in 1901, when he was called to Tuskegee Institute by Booker T. Washington to teach biology. He had earned a bachelor's degree that year from Howard University.
In 1952, Dr. Turner received the Howard University Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement in the field of education.
He had attended Charlotte Hall, an Episcopalian school in Southern Maryland, for two years on a scholarship. At the age of 18, he walked 50 miles to Washington to attend Howard.
Dr. Turner earned a master's degree at Howard in 1905, and from 1913 to 1924, he was professor of applied biology there.
During the period, he was also acting dean of the school of education for 10 years. He attended Cornell University in the summers and during one sabbatical year earned a doctorate in botany in 1921.
He pursued other graduate studies at Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities and the University of Rochester.
Dr. Turner left Howard to head the department of natural science at Hampton Institute in 1924. He remained there until 1945, when he became professor emeritus. In January of this year, Turner Hall, the natural sciences building, was dedicated there.
In 1949-50, he helped organize the biology department and was a professor of biology at Texas Southern University. But glaucoma over a period of years destroyed his sight, and he was forced to retire.
Dr. Turner had specialized in research on plant nutrition and disease, ecology, soil science, tree surgery and cotton breeding. He had been a cytologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which named him collaborator on plant diseases in Virginia.
"I was one of the first black people to do a lot of things," Dr. Turner said in an interview last year. "I didn't get up and start cussing people out. But I said things."
Survivors include his wife, Louise, of Hampton, and a niece, Lois E. Broadus, of Washington, with whom he had been living since 1973 because of his failing health.