A school building was named for this East Dallas war hero with an unbelievable story

1st Lt. Turney W. Leonard (photo courtesy of Dallas ISD).

This summer, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees voted to name the former Dallas County Schools building located at 5151 Samuel after World War II war hero Turney W. Leonard.  

After voters made the decision to shut down Dallas County Schools, (which ran the buses for Dallas ISD and a couple other districts but retained the power to levy taxes from the days when it actually ran schools as well), Dallas ISD took over the building, and has renamed it after only one of two Dallas ISD Medal of Honor recipients.

Trustee Dan Micciche came across the story of Leonard when he found that the Dallas ISD board honored three confederate generals following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 while overlooking a war hero who was an actual Dallas ISD student.

Leonard was the youngest of six children, and lived in Little Forest Hills for a few years before he was sent to live with his grandparents near Harlingen, Texas. He graduated from Crozier Tech High School in Dallas before attending Texas A&M and graduating in 1942. Texas A&M graduates take their rings seriously, and it would be Leonard’s ring that would make news.

Leonard’s mother had a flag with gold four stars displayed in her window, representing her four sons who were off to war during World War II. First Lieutenant Leonard was part of Company C in the 83rd Tank Battalion, and received the Medal of Honor for his service in the battle for the Huertgen Forest in Kommerscheidt, Germany in November 1944. Organizing troops, solo reconnaissance missions and disabling enemies single-handedly all contributed to the honor. He lost his arm in battle, but refused to be captured and eventually died at age 23.

His Medal of Honor citation reads, “By his superb courage, inspiring leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit, 1st Lt. Leonard enabled our forces to hold off the enemy attack and was personally responsible for the direction of fire which destroyed six German tanks.”

His remains were not immediately recovered, but after four year of searching, his body was returned in 1949 and buried in Grove Hill Memorial Park with his brother, a Dallas motorcycle police officer who also died in the line of duty. The cemetery is less than a mile from the building that now holds his name.

Although his body was returned, his Aggie ring was still missing. But in 2001, a retired German Army officer found it in a field, and it had Leonard’s name inscribed. After some internet searching, (not as easy in 2001), his son-in-law contacted Texas A&M, who invited the Germans to come to College Station and present the ring to Leonard’s brother. The ring and Medal of Honor now reside at Texas A&M.

Though she was a young girl, Leonard’s niece Karen Anderson remembers seeing him right before he went off to war. He didn’t have time to say much, but told Anderson’s father, his brother, “You have a family, I don’t. I am going to fight for both of us.”

Read more about Leonard, this story and his Medal of Honor here.


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