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Black History Month Celebrates Carmen Turner

Carmen E. Turner Memorial at Smithsonian Station. Photo by Jiahao Li on Unsplash

We celebrate and honor the legacy of Carmen Turner as part of our four-part series for Black History Month.

Turner served as General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from 1983-1990, making her the first African American woman in such a role at a transit organization in our country. Prior to that, she served in the Office of Civil Rights for the US Department of Transportation. 

An alumna of Howard University and American University, Turner grew up in 1930s and 1940s Washington DC, where her schools and neighborhoods were segregated. She began her career as a typist and worked her way to top leadership roles. 

Alongside Turner’s work are many accolades. She was awarded the American Public Transit Association‘s 1989 Transit Manager of the Year award. In fact, in her time as General Manager of WMATA, the transit authority was rated the best in the nation. Turner was integral in expanding the DC subway system to serve more people and her legacy is still honored at Metro (see the picture above, showing a memorial in her name at the Smithsonian Station). 

“She was known as a deft administrator with a sharp and nimble mind and a low tolerance for incompetence. Her style of operating was said to be warm, charming and non-confrontational, but she also demanded answers and solutions whenever anything went wrong.”

– The Washington Post

Diversity is vital at every level of an organization, ensuring that equitable practices are carried out and that people have equal opportunity. The disenfranchisement of black women in America has been widespread and still exists today, which is all the more reason to celebrate the life and work of Carmen Turner. 

We honor Turner’s leadership, success, and character, and thank her for her legacy.