From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (African American Women Veterans in and from Kentucky)

Turner, Joanna M. Keys

(born: February 5, 1896  -  died: May 16, 1980) 

Military Branch

Women's Army Corps

Active Duty Entered

February 17, 1945

Active Duty Exit

October 8, 1945


Joanna M. Keys was a teacher in Lexington, KY as early as 1925; she is listed as a member of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association in 1924. A college graduate, she was married Estell Turner when she enlisted in the Army in Cincinnati, OH, according to her record in the National Archives, Access to Archival Databases. Joanna Keys Turner was one of the older women to join the WAC, she was 49 years old when she enlisted.

The discrepancies in her age is because more than one birthday and varying ages are recorded for her in various records. According to her military record and other records, Joanna M. Keys was born in Lexington on February 4, 1900, the daughter of Mary Haskins and Henry Keys, a horse trainer. According to the birth notice in the local newspaper, she was born four years earlier. "February 5. - To Henry Keys and Mary Haskins, colored, a daughter." Source: Sunday Leader, 2/16/1896, p. 4. Henry Keys had two daughters, according to his 1943 obituary: Joanna and her half-sister Julia (born in 1905 and died in 1964).

Joanna Turner left Kentucky and was a teacher in Cincinnati. In October 1946, she filed for divorce, which was finalized in January 1947. Joanna was said to be 45 years old at that time. In 1951, she was a teacher at the Allen House, an Emergency Child's Placement Center with the Hamilton County Welfare Department in Cincinnati. She remained in Cincinnati, where she died in 1980. She is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery.

Sources: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death Files in Ancestry; Ohio Death Records in Ancestry; "Colored Notes: Henry Keys," Lexington Herald, 10/5/1943, p. 11; "New Suits Filed: Court of Common Pleas. A101364 Joanna K. Turner vs Estill G. Turner. For divorce.," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/19/1946, p. 20; "Divorce by Judge Schneider," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/11/1947, p. 9; May Dearness, "Kids Find Fun: at Allen House in escaping sad family life," The Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/22/1951, p. 95; "Colored Notes and News: Mrs. Julia Keys Smith," The Lexington Leader, 3/24/1964, p. 16; Joanna K. Turner at Find A Grave; R. L. Polk & Co.'s Lexington (Kentucky) Directory, 1925, p. 499; and the Kentucky Negro Educational Association, 48th Annual Session, April 23-26, 1924, p. 56. 

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Turner, Joanna M. Keys,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-11-10 13:11:10