He attended Samford University in Birmingham, but transferred to and later graduated from Auburn University in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Upon graduation he joined "Alabama Contract Sales, Incorporated," the family business.
Turnham has participated as a lay missioner to Venezuela and in various leadership capacities in Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika. Joe was also the local Lee County Democratic Club President and the Lee County Democratic Party Chairman.
In his first bid for elected public office in 1998, Turnham was Democratic Nominee for the 3rd District's U.S. Congressional Seat against incumbent U.S. Congressman and future Governor Bob Riley. Turnham lost the race with 42% of all votes cast. Five newspapers had endorsed him.
In 2002, Turnham was again the party nominee for the 3rd District's U.S. Congressional Seat running against Alabama politician Republican Mike Rogers. This campaign became especially negative as the Rogers campaign provided a phone number in a television ad and encouraged voters to "Call Joe Turnham and tell him he's too liberal for Alabama". Neck and neck in the polls, a well timed visit from U.S. President George W. Bush campaigning on behalf of Rogers a week before the election was able to give Rogers the boost he needed to eventually win the election with only 50.31% of the vote.
In 2005, Turnham was again elected Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party filling the term of Redding Pitt who had resigned.
Turnham was unopposed for re-election to a full term as party chair. On January 20, 2007 he was unanimiously re-elected by the State Democratic Executive Committee to a term that runs through 2011.
He is also member of the Board of Directors of Democrats for Life of America.
ALADEMS TOUT BIPARTISAN APPEAL OF SUPREME COURT SLATE; PARTY CHAIRMAN JOE TURNHAM: "THE RECENT HIGH-PROFILE REPUBLICAN DONORS TO OUR JUDICIAL CANDIDATES MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS THE BIG-TENT PARTY OF IDEAS, NOT PARTISAN SHOWMANSHIP.".
Sep 03, 2010; MONTGOMERY, AL -- The following information was released by the Alabama Democratic Party: ALABAMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY FOR IMMEDIATE...