2007 Laureate Prize Winner
2007 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in Public Service and Entrepreneurship
Since the early 1970's, Ted Turner has stepped into the international spotlight with one accomplishment after another. In billboard advertisement, cable television, sports team ownership, sailing, environmental initiatives and philanthropy, Turner's vision, determination, generosity and forthrightness have consistently been aimed at improving the world.
Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III was born in 1938 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a wealthy family. He moved to Savannah when he was nine. He attended Brown University and was vice-president of the Brown Debating Union. Mr. Turner majored in Classics but changed his major to Economics upon the insistence of his domineering father. He left Brown without graduating.
From the time he was 11 Mr. Turner entered sailing competitions and he competed in Olympic trials in 1964. In 1977, he successfully defended the America's Cup for the U.S. with the yacht Courageous. With many America’s Cup triumphs he was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993.
Mr. Turner's media empire began with his father's billboard business, Turner Outdoor Advertising, which he took over at 24 after his father's suicide in 1963. His purchase of an Atlanta UHF station in 1970 launched the Turner Broadcasting System. His Cable News Network, the first dedicated 24-hour cable news channel, revolutionized news media with its coverage of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In 1976 Mr. Turner had expanded his empire to include the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which he turned into a nationally popular franchise, and he subsequently launched the charitable Goodwill Games.
Turner now dedicates his time and resources to making the world a better, safer place for future generations. As a philanthropist he is best known for his $1 billion gift that established the United Nations Foundation. He created this public charity to broaden support for the UN and is chairman of the board of directors.
Other interests include the Turner Foundation, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Captain Planet Foundation, and the Turner Endangered Species Fund. Mr. Turner’s activities have earned him 42 honorary degrees from institutions that include his former school Brown University, Morehouse College, The Citadel, and Mississippi University for Women.
Mr. Turner has been married three times, the last time famously to Jane Fonda, and has two daughters and three sons. With two million acres of personal and ranch land in six states he has become the largest individual landowner in the United States. He has raised bison since 1976 and currently has the largest private herd in the world. Through Turner Enterprises he strives to manage Turner lands in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while conserving native species.
Mr. Turner’s sponsorship of the National Forensic League's Ted Turner Public Forum Debate hints at his devotion to free and open speech. He also created the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship for fiction offering positive solutions to global problems. His own frankness and determination have landed him in the midst of controversies on more than one occasion. These features are also the wellspring of his creativity.