He received a bachelor"s degree in business, and simultaneously earned an Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor, all from the University of Texas at Austin.
His legal career in Texas included his own law practice in his hometown of Crockett and his partnership in the Austin office of Hughes & Luce Limited Liability Partnership.
Prior to being elected to Congress, Turner held several state and local offices. He succeeded Kent Caperton of Bryan in the Senate. Caperton did not seek reelection in 1990, and Turner defeated the Republican Lou Zaeske, also of Bryan, head of the Texas English-only movement.
Foreign two years, Turner was an Executive Assistant to Texas Governor Mark Wells White.
He was reelected three times with no substantive opposition. In 2003, Turner was one of the targets of a highly controversial redistricting engineered by Tom DeLay.
The Texas Legislature dismantled his district, which covered a large portion of East Texas stretching from Lufkin to the suburbs of Houston, and split its territory among three districts. The largest portion was shifted to the 8th District, represented by Republican Kevin Brady, who had been elected the same year as Turner.
While Turner had represented more of the new 8th than Brady, most of the 8th"s vote was cast in heavily Republican Montgomery County, which has as many people as the rest of the district combined.
His home in Crockett was thrown into the Fort Worth/Arlington-based 6th district, an even more Republican area represented by ten-term incumbent Joe Barton. Believing he had no realistic chance of staying in Congress, Turner decided not to run for a fifth term in 2004. He was briefly mentioned as a candidate for governor of Texas or the United States Senate seat of Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2006.
In 2005, Turner joined the Washington office of Arnold & Porter, Limited Liability Partnership where he is currently a partner in the Public Policy and Legislative Practice Group.
He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 to 1984, mayor of Crockett, Texas from 1989 to 1991, and a member of the Texas Senate from 1991 to 1996. Congressman Turner was a member of the Armed Services Committee, and was the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. A fiscally conservative Democrat, Turner co-chaired the Blue Dog Coalition and was a member of the New Democrat Coalition.