Turner Theological Seminary began as a department of Morris Brown College in 1894. For nine years Steward, D.D., a former United States Army chaplain, was elected the first dean of theology. In the interim, the Rev. E. L. Chew was also elected, but the Rev. E. W. Lee, a former principal who was subsequently elected president of Morris Brown College, was the first to serve as dean of theology. Twelve persons made up the first student body.
The name Turner Theological Seminary was approved in 1900 in honor of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, the resident Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and senior bishop of the denomination at that time.
The Seminary remained on the campus of Morris Brown College until 1957 when a building was acquired at 557 Mitchell Street. The Trustee Board of Morris Brown College, under the leadership of Bishop William Reid Wilkes, Sr., authorized Turner Theological Seminary to become a founding constituent of the Interdenominational Theological Center in 1958. Dr. George A. Sewell was appointed Director/Dean. A charter was obtained in 1975 and a separate Board of Trustees was appointed under the leadership of Bishop Richard Allen Hildebrand.
The seminary received its own charter in 1975 and its first separate Board of Trustees was elected. Those who followed Dr. Sewell as deans have included Dr. Josephus R. Coan, Dr. Cecil W. Cone, Dr. George L. Champion, and Dr. Clayton D. Wilkerson. Dr. Daniel W. Jacobs Sr. served as dean from 1985 to 2008. During his tenure the Frederick Hilborn Talbot Hall was erected and the enrollment has more than doubled.
Within a year of the election of Dr. Daniel W. Jacobs. Sr. as Dean of Turner Theological Seminary in 1985, construction was begun on the Frederick Hilborn Talbot Hall at a cost of S2.8 million. This facility was the result of the tireless efforts of Bishop Talbot. It contains offices, a chapel, laundromat, concession area, thirty-two dormitory rooms, twenty efficiencies, and five one-bedroom apartments. It was occupied in October 1987.
Turner Theological Seminary continues to pursue excellence as an institution for the preparation of young men and women for every department of Christian work.
Turner Theological Seminary remains committed to its motto “For a Prepared Ministry” in keeping with the aim of its founders to be “an institution for the preparation of young men and women for every department of Christian work.” Turner graduates can be found in all areas of the church: college and seminary teachers and presidents, pastors, presiding elders, and bishops, and civic and political officials.