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Ralph F. Turner papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-17.149

Series Description

(1) SCHOOL OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE. 1930, 1938-1988, 1990, undated [1962-1975]. 6.33 cubic feet

Reports, memoranda, correspondence, notes, publications and extraneous materials relating to the function and activities of the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. Topics range in breadth from University and student/classroom-related activities to areas of interest beyond campus boarders. Typical of these topics include: School of Criminal Justice work with the Detroit Study of 1967, Faculty Advisory Committee materials, office/school administrative forms, School or Criminal Justice History, 50th Anniversary planning materials, Law Enforcement Training Program/Law Enforcement Institute and general school program materials. Arranged alphabetically (largely).

(2) CURRICULUM MATERIALS. 1959-1966, 1970, 1972-1977, undated. 1.0 cubic feet.

Materials in this series are closely related to those materials found in series #1. Types of materials include correspondence, reports, memoranda, notes and publications. While the focus is more concerned with university-wide curriculum development, materials reflect changes to curriculum within the School of Criminal Justice. Arranged alphabetically.

(3) COURSE MATERIALS. 1927, 1936, 1940, 1943, 1946-1951, 1951-1956, 1958-1959, 1981, undated. [1965-1979]. 4.67 cubic feet

This series ties in with series #1 and #2, but, its primary emphasis lies in the documentation of courses taught in the School of Criminal Justice. Primary types of materials include syllabi, lecture notes, tests, quizzes, class lists, roll sheets, class outlines, handbooks, questionnaires, thesis guidelines, memoranda, surveys and reports. Included as well are materials related to the development of Criminal Justice courses and curriculum. Of note are Turner’s course materials for “Alcohol - A Social Dilemma.” This series reflects course work done by Turner, but includes materials gathered and presented by colleagues as well. Arranged largely alphabetically. Syllabi are arranged in ascending order by course number.

(4) SHORT COURSES WITH LAWRENCE BARIL. 1944, 1948, 1950-1972, undated. [1958-1969]. 4.5 cubic feet

Short courses through the School of Criminal Justice and Lifelong Education largely served law enforcement personnel throughout the state of Michigan. Lawrence Baril, an instructor in policing administration and public safety, was very involved in the short course programs. A considerable amount of materials in this series reflect his work. These courses focused on a wide range of subjects including accident investigation, basic police patrol, traffic management, policing juveniles and command officer training, field service and law enforcement training. Their audience served the range of officers, from the rural small town beat cop to state police administrators. Courses lasted anywhere from one to three months. This series relates to materials found in series #1, most notably the files on Law Enforcement Training Program.

This short course series contains correspondence, publication, reports, memoranda, course syllabi and outlines, lecture notes, class rosters, case studies and related educational materials. Arranged alphabetically.

(5) LONDON COURSE IN COMPARATIVE CRIMINAL JUSTICE. 1967, 1969-1978, 1980-1984, undated. 1.75 cubic feet.

Materials in this series relate specifically to study abroad programs in Comparative Criminal Justice in London. Types of materials found here include correspondence, syllabi, course materials, lecture notes, reports, case materials and publications. Correspondence includes that between members of the School of Criminal Justice, the University, and London individuals involved with the collaborative teaching project. Arranged largely alphabetically.

(6) MSU POLICE ADMINISTRATION GERMAN PROGRAM (PAGP). 1949-1953 [1950-1951]. 1.25 cubic feet.

Materials in this series reflect the work of Turner, as well as others in the School of Criminal Justice, with the Police Administration Program established by Michigan State University. The vast majority of the materials in this series are correspondence. This correspondence is between program participants and coordinators and includes the staff and administration of Michigan State University, the U.S. State Department, the German government and police officials. Arranged alphabetically.

(7) CORRESPONDENCE. 1949-1994, undated. 9.5 cubic feet.

Although correspondence is found in nearly every series in the collection, the correspondence set aside in this series was kept as such (separate from other materials) by the creator. The creator, Turner, labeled most of the correspondence as “personal” although much professional correspondence is mixed within letters to and from family and friends. Correspondence with police and legal officials regarding expert witness and consulting work, state and government administrators (including J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI), foreign dignitaries, mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner, and U.S. presidents. Arranged alphabetically and then chronologically within each letter.

(8) VIETNAM PROJECT. 1955-1971, 1981, undated. [1955-1960]. 6.0 cubic feet.

Materials in this series reflect Turner’s involvement in the MSU Advisory Group (MSUG) in Vietnam. Turner’s collection of papers on this project reflect largely the formal workings of the MSUG, and consequently consist largely of reports, publications, articles, briefing information, case studies, meeting minutes, notes, drafts of formal materials, and some correspondence. It is suggested that the researcher consult the series of correspondence for the time period Turner spent in Vietnam as Chief Police Advisor to the Police and Security Service of South Vietnam as part of the MSUG. Please also refer to collection UA (Vietnam Project) and UA 17.95 (Wesley R. Fishel Papers) for a more detailed record of MSU’s involvement in Vietnam. This project was established under contract through the Vietnamese Government and the U.S. Operations Mission. Arranged largely alphabetically.

(9) RESEARCH PROJECTS. 1939-1980, 1982-1987, undated. [1966-1974]. 3.0 cubic feet.

This series reflects the work done on six different projects, but emphasize two: alcohol research and voice print identification. Arranged alphabetically by research topic, and then alphabetically within that topic.

(10) FORENSIC SCIENCE. 1947, 1951, 1955-1966, undated. 1.0 cubic feet.

This series contains equipment catalogs for use in the field of Forensic Science investigation work. Arranged alphabetically by catalog title.

(11) FORENSIC SCIENCE WITH C. W. MUEHLBERGER. 1899, 1901, 1913, 1920-1938, 1940, undated. [1923-1933]. 2.5 cubic feet.

C. W. Muehlberger was the director of Michigan State University’s Department of Health. He was also head of the scientific crime detection laboratory under the State of Michigan Department of Health. He was a pioneer forensic technologist, much respected by Turner. These papers of Muehlberger were kept by Turner. For more information on Muehlberger and his relation with the School of Criminal Justice, see the School of Criminal Justice, series #1, “C.W. Muehlberger Fund,” Box 1666, Folder 28. Arranged alphabetically.

(12) FULBRIGHT LECTURE PAPERS. 1960-1968, 1970-1972, 1992, undated. 0.75 cubic feet.

Materials relating to Turner’s appointment as a Fulbright Lecturer. For more and related materials see the correspondence (under dates of his Fulbright tenure), series #7, as well as the General Subject Files series #13 and the Miscellaneous series #17. Arranged alphabetically.

(13) GENERAL SUBJECT FILES. 1920, 1924, 1927, 1929, 1934-1999, undated. [1960-1975]. 8.75 cubic feet.

A diverse assortment of materials interrelated to one another as well as to other series in the collection, the General Subject files reflect both the work and private life activities of Turner throughout the bulk of his life. Many of the professional organizations in which he was a member are represented in this series, including: Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Alcohol Education Committee, Forensic Sciences Foundation, International Association of Police Professors, Michigan Association of the Chiefs of Police. Both his alcohol and voice print identification projects have ties to materials found in this section.

Also included are the materials he collected during his participation in the Sherlock Holmes Society of London (Baker Street Irregulars) and during his involvement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

(14) CASE FILES. 1903-1905, 1909-1911, 1914, 1918, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1949-1992, undated. [1973-1988]. 5.25 cubic feet.

Documents maintained by Turner on cases on which he was a consultant or expert witness. Some of the files represent consultant work done by colleagues and mentors of Turner. Some cases have long histories. Types of materials within include: legal briefings, testimony, photographs, correspondence, reports, forensic and ballistics reports. Arranged according to case number.

(15) AMERICAN ACADEMY OF FORENSIC SCIENCE. 1945-1984, 1987-1988, 1992-1994, undated. 2.25 cubic feet.

Turner was a founding member of the American Academy of Forensic Science. Materials in this series reflect his involvement. Additional related materials can be found in the Miscellaneous and Correspondence series. Membership Rosters, by-laws and membership requirements and meeting proceedings can be found here. Other materials include correspondence, publications, meeting materials, programs, committee minutes, publications and abstracts. Arranged chronologically during early years of organization development, then alphabetically by subject.

(16) NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL. 1947-1958, 1961-1977, undated. 1.25 cubic feet. pp.

The National Safety Council supported and founded much of Turner’s alcohol research project. See the “alcohol” section of the Research Projects series for related materials. Materials in this series relates specifically to the alcohol and drugs section within the National Safety Council. Types of materials include publications, reports, correspondence, and working papers of committees and sub-committees. Arranged largely chronologically.

(17) MISCELLANEOUS. 1930-1931, 1935-1944, 1946-1947, 1949-1975, undated. 3.25 cubic feet.

An archivist-created series of materials left unorganized by the creator and coming from various donors and labeled “miscellaneous.” Materials in this series may reflect groupings of materials located within other series. Arranged largely alphabetically.

(18) RESTRICTED FILES. 2.0 cubic feet.

Personnel and student records, police reports, donor records, human subject research records, and correspondence relating to job searches, which are considered confidential by University policy. Arranged by series and thereunder alphabetically by subject.


Thousands of photographs, photographic prints, negatives and illustrations of firearms and firearm parts. These items are part of the J. H Matthews Collection kept by Turner. A mentor of Turner, J. H. Matthews was chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin and was noted for his work with ballistic forensics.

Items in this series are arranged in a variety of ways. Individual photographs and corresponding negatives, along with handwritten information have been preserved in 4x5 inch envelopes within 5x7 inch envelopes. Other illustrations mounted on scrapbook pages have remained preserved this way - in the order in which they were found - but separated into acid free folders. They are arranged both alphabetically and according to caliber.

(20) AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS. 20 cubic feet. Postcards, lantern slides.

Materials in addition to the Firearms Illustrations and Photographs Series. These are items separate from the general body of the collection and placed in the Archives’ audio recording, film and video, postcard and photograph collections. The lantern slides in this series belonged to J. H. Matthews. There are two sets. A general set on forensic science collected by Matthews are miscellaneous in nature on the subjects of ballistics, poison, and laboratory scenes. The second set are slides used by Matthews in teaching courses at Wisconsin c.1930s. Topics for this second set include the history of criminology, miscellany, alcohol detection, blood stains, explosions, polygraph charts, type writing, charred documents, stab wounds, physical chemistry, optical instruments, hair, vegetable fibers, starches, hit and run, polygraph, blood identification, spectography, ballistics, gunshot wounds, ultraviolet, infrared, x-rays, molding and casts, glass fractures, mud and dusts, bones and teeth, the crime problem, circumstantial v. eye witness evidence, restoration of serial numbers, finger prints, restoration by chemical means, watermarks, wounds, burns, skulls and faces. Items are grouped according to media and listed thereunder.


Items too large for acid free folder and envelope arrangement. Numerous maps - London, the Middle East, Vietnam, China and the United States. Also ephemera relating to MSUG activities, ballistics and Baker Street Irregulars materials.


  • Creation: 1899 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Series 18 (2 cubic feet) is restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

Ralph F. Turner served the Michigan State University community as a Professor of Criminalistics in the School of Police Administration and Public Safety (now the School of Criminal Justice) from 1947 until retiring in 1981.

Turner was born on October 18, 1917 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Amanda Schmidt Turner and Ralph W. Turner. He received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin 1939 and an M.S. in Police Administration from the University of Southern California. Turner received additional education at Boston University Medical School and the Yale Center for Alcohol Studies.

On June 21, 1941, Ralph F. Turner married Arnella Klug (b. May 22, 1917). Arnella received her B.A. from Milwaukee-Downer College in 1938, and her M.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1939. From 1939 to 1941 she was a high school teacher in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and from 1953-1962 she substituted in a wide variety of disciplines and taught English classes one full year at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan. From 1965 through her retirement in 1981, Arnella was an instructor and assistant professor in the American Thought and Language Department at Michigan State University. Together Ralph and Arnella had three children: Richard D., Georgia C. and, John F.

Ralph and Arnella started their family in Kansas City, Missouri where Ralph established the Laboratory of Forensic Science in the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. He was laboratory supervisor from 1939-1947. While in Kansas City, Turner began research on alcohol use and abuse - a research project of significant importance throughout his career.

Turner left Kansas City to come to East Lansing, Michigan in 1947 to take a position as Professor of Criminalistics at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University). In 1949, he became involved in a year-long scientific study of drinking “under field conditions.” These “field conditions” involved creating a social setting and getting four to six volunteers to meet every Friday evening for over a year to play cards, talk and drink at their leisure. The participants agreed to have their consumption tracked and periodically submit to breath, blood and urine testing. Campus psychologists also monitored coordination and other responses and attitudes of the volunteers of varying socio-economic backgrounds. The project was funded by the National Traffic Safety Council. It was his longstanding interest in the use and misuse of alcohol that helped pave the way toward establishment of the substance abuse program at MSU in 1976. He also taught a course titled, “Alcohol - A Social Dilemma.”

From 1959 through 1961, Turner served as Chief Police Advisor to the Police and Security Services of South Vietnam under the auspices of the MSU Advisory Group (see collection UA He then traveled to Taipei, Taiwan during 1963-1964 as a Fulbright lecturer at the Central Police College. From 1969-1970, Turner returned to serve as National Visiting Professor at the Central Police College by the appointment of the National Science Council of the Republic of China. In addition, Turner taught short courses in Guam and Saudi Arabia; and conducted MSU courses in comparative justice at graduate and undergraduate levels in London, England, from 1970-1983. The course in comparative criminal justice was born partially from his acquaintance with police personnel around the world and from travels that have taken him the world over, as well as a personal interest in understanding different systems of justice.

Outside of the university, Turner was an advisor to President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in 1965-1966 (Drunkenness Task Force Report). In 1975 he was one of seven civilian criminology experts selected to assess the firearms evidence for the Los Angeles County Court in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. In the mid-1970s he was in close contact with the House Select Committee on Assassinations that considered the reopening of the investigations of the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Turner was an expert witness throughout his career, often testifying in criminal and civil court cases related to firearms, evidence from crime scenes, and alcohol and alcohol abuse. In his police consultant service Turner worked on over 500 assignments rendered in area of criminalistics, police science, and alcohol problems. He was responsible for numerous publications, paper presentations on these topics, and was considered by many in his lifetime to be one of the best forensic experts in the country.

Turner was a founding member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Other professional memberships included the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, National Safety Council Committee on Alcohol and Drugs, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, National Council on Alcoholism and International Association for Identification.

During his career, Turner received numerous awards and recognition for his achievements. In 1978, he became the third person to receive the Bruce Smith Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences - an award infrequently presented by the Academy, and given in recognition of lifetime leadership in the administrative and professional fields, and for Turner’s substantial contributions to the body of criminal justice knowledge gathered during 35 years as an educator, researcher, author and criminal justice practitioner. In 1981 he received the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award. As a professional, he was strongly influenced by the Chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Wisconsin, J. H. Matthews, one of the pioneers in scientific criminal investigation, most notably in ballistic forensics. Turner’s book, Forensic Science and Laboratory Techniques, was the first published laboratory manual designed to be used in a laboratory course on the college level for the training of police lab technicians.

Turner’s personal life included an interest in carpentry and oil painting. He was an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright and his work, doing much to support the preservation efforts of Taliesin West. An accomplished photographer, Turner had a show of his work at the Kresge Art Museum, November 29 through December 20, 1970. He was an active member of Christ Lutheran Church in Lansing. A member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London (Baker St. Irregulars), a group of Sherlock Holmes aficionados, Turner was a founding member of a local East Lansing chapter, The Greek Interpreter Scion. He was intrigued by the connection between the world of real-life investigators and the fictional world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

A devoted husband and father, Turner was married to Arnella for 53 years at the time of his death on May 22, 1994, at the age of 76.


90.5 Cubic Feet (Plus audio-visual and oversized materials)

Language of Materials



Arranged into 21 series: 1. School of Criminal Justice. 2. Curriculum Materials. 3. Course Materials. 4. Short Courses with Lawrence Baril. 5. London Course in Comparative Criminal Justice. 6. MSU Police Administration German Program (PAGP). 7. Correspondence. 8. Vietnam Project. 9. Research Projects. 10. Forensic Science. 11. Forensic Science with C. W. Muehlberger. 12. Fulbright Lecture Papers. 13. General Subject Files. 14. Case Files. 15. American Academy of Forensic Science. 16. National Safety Council. 17. Miscellaneous. 18. Restricted Files. 19. Firearms Illustrations and Photographs. 20. Audio-Visual Materials. 21. Oversized Materials.

Legal Status

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to Michigan State University but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Copyright restrictions may apply. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Ralph F. Turner Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
J. Mazak
April 2000
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US