Posted in: Lawyers None, Awards


For Robert Turnbull, helping his fellow lawyers in times of need is not just a job. It’s a way of life. 

Turnbull for more than two decades has assisted lawyers, judges and law students achieve well-being and a better quality of life in the practice of law. Current co-director of the SC Bar’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers program, he was involved in the program’s development as a member service of the Bar and served as its first director. 

For his efforts assisting the legal community and dedication to South Carolina, he recently was awarded the state’s highest civilian honor. Gov. Henry McMaster presented Turnbull with the Order of the Palmetto in a ceremony on July 23. 

“He is so caring and dedicated and willing to share his own story of recovery,” says Greenville attorney Stuart Mauney, who nominated Turnbull for the award. “It really is not a job for Robert so much as it is a passion. He just cares so much.”

A Columbia native, Turnbull served in the Army—including a tour in Vietnam—before graduating from The Citadel and the University of South Carolina School of Law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1977, practiced in the corporate arena and served as the first director of SC Victim’s Compensation Fund. He was hired by the SC Bar in 2000 to lead the newly formed Lawyers Helping Lawyers program after working with a task force to look at the issue of substance use disorders in the legal profession. 

In his role as chair of the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Profession, Justice John Kittredge has had the opportunity to work closely with Turnbull and see first-hand the impact of his colleague’s dedication to helping countless lawyers. 

“I have marveled through the years as I have personally observed Robert Turnbull reach out to so many people in their darkest hour of need,” Kittredge explained in a letter to Gov. McMaster.  “I have never heard Robert Turnbull say ‘no’ to anyone in need—he is always available. Robert Turnbull has given his life to assist and help his fellow man.” 

In addition to his service to the United States and the South Carolina legal profession, Turnbull has contributed as volunteer for many community organizations, including serving as board member and chair of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of SC, board member and chair of Faces and Voices of Recovery Midlands; and board member of National Alliance for Mental Illness Mid-Carolina, Easter Seals of SC, and SC Wildlife Federation.

He has been in long term recovery from alcoholism, depression and PTSD and is most grateful for his involvement with an active recovery community. In 2015 he received the state Stigma Buster of the Year Award from National Alliance on Mental Illness— South Carolina.  

Mauney, who got to know Turnbull while serving as a volunteer for Lawyers Helping Lawyers, said the Order of the Palmetto award criteria perfectly aligns with Turnbull’s lifetime of service. 

“I credit him with expanding the Lawyers Helping Lawyers program and making it more accessible as well as promoting education about removing the stigma of getting help and treatment,” he says. “…I could not think of anyone who deserves this award more than Robert.”