JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - If you watched television newscasts from KAIT-TV in the 1980's, chances are you were familiar with a reporter by the name of Sam Turpin. Turpin worked at KAIT-TV for nine years beginning in 1980.
Turpin, 74, passed away July 5 at Greene Acres Nursing Home in Paragould.
"He was an excellent feature reporter, and was very popular with viewers," Mark Herbst, former KAIT-TV chief photographer and assignment editor, said. "But he was also hard news journalist."
Turpin also anchored the Scene Mid-Day newscast with Grovernel Grisham and Terry Wood.
"I just remember him being upbeat, fun and talented," Grisham, former host of Mid-Day said. "He was very kind and sweet and always out-going. He never met a stranger. He was always talking. He was about four years old than Terry. Terry was 25 years old when he started at KAIT."
The death of Turpin was a bit more personal for Wood.
"He's my first cousin, but was like a brother to me," Terry Wood, long-time KAIT weatherman said. "He grew up with me in St. Louis. He was just like a brother."
Wood said that Turpin would fill-in anchor on the prime-time newscasts at 6 & 10 p.m. as well. But, it was his work as a reporter that earned Turpin the most respect.
"I worked with him many times when he backed down newsmakers to get straight answers and deliver strong stories for our viewers. I never thought Sam got enough credit for how talented he was as a reporter," Herbst said. "In life, he was quite a unique character with a great personality and a quick wit, and I liked him."
Turpin came to KAIT from Arkansas Radio Network (ARN). He had also worked for KNEA in Jonesboro and KDRS in Paragould. Turpin left KAIT to work for Brackett-Krennerich and Associates. Later on, he would pursue training as a private investigator.
When not working, Turpin was passionate about the arts. He wrote screenplays, songs and played the guitar. He was appointed to the Arkansas Film Commission by former Gov. Bill Clinton. Turpin also volunteered for the Greene County Fine Arts Association and the Jonesboro Fine Arts Association.
"He had a stroke in November 2009 and became wheelchair-bound," Wood said. "He was a guy who didn't just sit down and wait for the grim reaper. He stayed active right up until he died."
Turpin wrote poetry and even developed a screenplay called "Fruit of the Vine," that he sent to Francis Ford Coppola, director of "The Godfather."
Turpin even appeared in his wheelchair in a locally produced film called, "The Paper Trail." The film by Beverly Spruill was shot in Jonesboro and Memphis.
"He fell a few weeks ago and injured the leg that was paralyzed due to his stroke," Wood said. That caused infection to set in.
"He was a good Bible scholar," Wood said.
Turpin was known to minister to others in the nursing homes where he lived the last years of his life, both St. Elizabeth's Place and Greene Acres Nursing Home, and share the gospel.
"He read scripture for people on their deathbed," Wood said. "He told me one time, 'the Lord put me in this wheelchair to straighten up my life and get ready to go home.'"
A memorial service for Sammy Charles Turpin will be held at the Family Fellowship Baptist Church on Sunday, July 9 at 2 p.m.
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