By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun
Former Rattler football star Billy Jack Turnbeaugh is being considered for the list of nominees for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
If inducted, Turnbeaugh will be in the company of sports greats such as baseball’s Henry “Hank” Aaron, football’s Joe Willie Namath, and basketball’s Charles Barkley.
“It will be a tremendous honor if I am accepted to be voted on.” said Turnbeaugh, who now lives in Nevada.
Turnbeaugh played as a defensive tackle for the Auburn Tigers from 1951-1952. He was an All-South Eastern Conference defensive tackle in 1951. And in 1952, Turnbeaugh was voted most valuable player by Auburn’s “A” club members. In the same year, Colliers Magazine (Aug. 30) designated Turnbeaugh as the “Unsung College Lineman of the Year.”
Turnbeaugh only played for Auburn his sophomore and junior years and was drafted for the Korean war after his junior year. Following his military service, he returned to Auburn and completed his education and graduated in 1956 with a degree in history and physical education.
For consideration in Alabama’s Sports Hall of Fame, the former Rattler has to be sponsored by a resident of Alabama and submit a biographical history that includes his statistical accomplishments in sports. Turnbeaugh will then be voted onto a waiting list of inductees for the Hall of fame. Once on the list he will remain on there until he is inducted or dies.
Turnbeaugh’s sponsor is Tom Bryan, a former Auburn Tiger and a resident of Opelika, Ala. Like Turnbeaugh, he’s had a lifelong association with football. Bryan is a member of the Auburn Football Lettermen Club (AFLC), an organization of former Auburn football players who provide scholarships to the children of former Auburn players children and support former players in times of hardship.
“Mr. Turnbeaugh seems like a very nice gentlemen,” Bryan said. “I am happy to support him in his efforts to be inducted to the Alabama Sports Hall Of Fame and hope he is successful in doing so.”
Turnbeaugh’s submission to the Hall Of Fame will be June 1, 2007.
Turnbeaugh’s football career began at Rattler Stadium, where he played tackle for the Rattlers from 1945 to 1948. He was selected to play on the All-State Team in 1948 and was chosen as the New Mexico Linemen in 1948. Turnbeaugh also was co-captain and played in the North vs. South All-star game of 1949.
Following graduation, he attended Eastern New Mexico University. He then transferred to Cameron State Junior College in Lawton, Okla., in 1950 where he played his freshman year where he was later recruited by Auburn.
He played for the Auburn Tigers from 1951-1952. In 1953 Turnbeaugh was drafted by the Green Bay Packers but was unable to attend training camp because he was drafted by the U.S. Army to serve in Korea.
When Turnbeaugh arrived in the east, his orders to Korea had been rescinded. He was re-assigned to Tokyo, Japan were he was the head coach for the Army’s regimental football team, the Bulldogs. He coached and played for the Bulldogs from 1953 to1955, when he was discharged from the Army.
Turnbeaugh returned to the states, attended the Packers training camp in July of 1955 but he opted not to play pro ball.
“When you sign to play professional you sign for ten years. In those ten years, there is a lot of physical abuse on your body. I decided I did not want to go through that abuse,” Turnbeaugh said.
Instead he returned to Auburn and completed his college education.
After college, Turnbeaugh joined the faculty at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo where he taught history and was assistant coach for the football and basketball teams. In 1961, he returned to Tucumcari and worked for the Broce Construction companies as an officer manager and a year later worked in Broce’s Oklahoma office until 1968. He came back to New Mexico in 1968 and worked for Wood Construction Co. based in Albuquerque. There, he met his wife Ruby Lee.
He later took a position at the White Sands Missile Range until 1972 when he moved to Nevada in 1975 and was employed with the Nevada State Welfare Division. He retired as district manager in December of 1989.
Since his retirement in 1989, Turnbeaugh has lived in western Nevada. But he remains in contact with former Rattler, Tiger and Bulldog teammates. He made a hit at a recent Rattler reunion when he introduced his book, “Tucumcari High School Rattler Football Greats through the Decades, 1920s-1990s.” And he looks forward to the annual Rattler Reunion in August each year.
“My health kept me from attending the last reunion. But I fully intend on attending the reunion next year to meet with old friends,” he said.
Turnbeaugh completed this week, his biographical and statistical booklet for consideration by the hall of fame consideration.
But he’s already got another football project in the works. Turnbeaugh said he plans to compile booklets on each of the decades of Rattler football history that he worked on for his book.
“There is so much information from over the years that I was not able to put into the first book due to lack of space. I want to make that information available for prosperity so future generations will be able to look back and see our Rattlers History,” Turnbeaugh said.