Champion of civil rights and human rights, Rev. Davette Turk dies at 87

Turk marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was known as the ‘Mother Teresa of Jacksonville’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local activist who was unlike any other, the Rev. Davette Turk, died last week at age 87, after a long battle with dementia. She was a Catholic nun who left the church to marry and become the first woman Episcopal priest in Florida.

Turk was a lifetime champion of civil rights and human rights from urban Jacksonville to remote regions of Africa.

At the opening of a “Unity Week” in 1996, promoting interracial togetherness to bring white and Black churches together, Turk said, “Muslims, Christians and Jews have prayed to the one Father and God in heaven and said, ‘Let us do something together that can start a spark in this city and certainly light the nation.’”

Always outspoken, her most memorable quote was when she said, “I believe in shaking things up. Jesus shook a lot of people up, and I believe in shaking people up for the sake of love.”

WJXT’s Tom Wills had this to say about Rev. Davette Turk:

Mother Davette, as I called her, and her husband, Richard, who was also an Episcopal priest, were family friends to my wife, Gina, and me for many years .. we were blessed to have known them both.

I have to tell you my favorite memory of Davette was at a town hall meeting Channel 4 hosted with presidential candidate Bill Clinton during the 1992 campaign. He took questions from a studio audience and from viewers for 2 hours ... when the broadcast was over, our engineers were helping him out of his wired-up microphone and earpiece. He had one arm up in the air and was covered with perspiration when Reverend Turk walked up and asked him his views on nuclear disarmament, and he immediately engaged in conversation with her about nuclear weapons like he’d been waiting his whole life to answer her question. That was Davette Turk in a single moment. I feel honored to have known her and call her friend.

A celebration of Reverend Turk’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at All Saint’s Episcopal Church on Hendricks Avenue.

About the Author:

Marilyn has been Digital Director since October 2021. She supervises Jacksonville's number one news website and most trusted source for local news.