DescriptionDonald Turnupseed Signed Letter. Just a 23-year-old Navy vet turned college student in 1955, Donald Turnupseed's life was forever altered when he became involved in the fatal car crash that claimed the life of James Dean. Turnupseed was heading home in his 1950 Ford Tudor. He made a left turn at the intersection of Highways 41 and 46, unaware that he was pulling into the path of Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder due to the fading daylight and neutral color of the vehicle. "Little Bastard" plowed into the Ford almost head-on and came to rest near a telephone pole 15 feet off the road. Dean's mechanic, Rolf Wuetherich, was thrown from the car, but survived with a broken leg and serious head injuries. Turnupseed escaped the accident with only minor injuries. Dean was dead at the scene.
This handwritten letter from Turnupseed to a friend is dated September 29, 1956 -- almost one full year after that fateful crash. In it, Turnupseed catches up on events with a friend he apparently hasn't spoken to in some time, and he briefly mentions the accident: "I am certainly sorry you have not heard from me before now but I have had quite a bit of excitement in the last year or so, first starting back to school then the affair with Dean. Bought another car & a home so I am now just getting time to catch my breath. I am enclosing some shots of mine and Dean's cars...Thank God I got out of it in one piece. But that is in the past and as I have said in poker games on the ship 'That was yesterday.' " For the remainder of his life, Turnupseed refused to discuss the accident with anyone, making this letter all the more remarkable. Included with the letter are the eight b&w photos by Turnupseed that he sent with the letter; five 5" x 3.5" shots of Turnupseed and his friends in the Navy, and three 3.5" x 3.5" shots of the mangled remains of his and Dean's cars, with handwritten notations on the back. (These three photos were taken by Turnupseed.) The letter is in Fine to Very Fine condition with moderately stressed fold creases and moderate tanning, and the photos are in Fine to Very Fine condition with mild to moderate wear. Turnupseed went on to become a successful businessman before succumbing to cancer in 1995, but spent the rest of his life under an intense desire for privacy and never gave interviews or discussed the incident outside close friends and family, making this letter a rare bit of insight into a tragic event. From the James Dean Museum archive.
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