Founder Lorenzo Turco

Attorney and Scholar

International attorney, humanist, a man of letters and languages, writer, and scholar – Lorenzo (“Renzo”) Turco was a founding member of Il Cenacolo San Francisco. He was born on June 3, 1896, in Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Provincia di Asti, Italy, the son of Evasio and Cesarina Turco. During World War I he served in the Italian Army, achieving the rank of captain, and motorized artillery, and was awarded a bronze medal for military valor.
Renzo Turco
Lorenzo "Renzo" Turco, c1942

In 1920, Renzo Turco graduated from the University of Turin with the degree of Juris Doctor and then spent a post-graduate year in 1921 emphasizing business studies at the Turin Institute of Commercial Sciences. With graduate and post-graduate degrees and a license to practice law in Italy, Renzo Turco nevertheless traveled to the United States in 1922 seeking a better life. He enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law—the Common Law—heretofore unfamiliar and probably even forbidding to an Italian lawyer who studied the great and ancient Roman and Continental juridical systems, which had been mastered in Italian and Latin, while British and American law as taught so far from home would now require a thorough familiarity with American English.

Turco was equal to the challenge. The rigors of recent legal studies in Italy and the habits of organized thought forged in him by the undergraduate disciplines of classical languages, literature, and history were a winning combination, ensuring his academic success. He graduated from the University of California, Boalt Hall, in 1926, receiving an LL.B. degree, and successfully passed the California Bar Examination. He thus began his brilliant legal career that spanned sixty years of California practice, as well as practice in Italy to include many cases for transnational clients and cases involving public and private international law. In 1928 he also became a U.S. citizen.

What better career for someone with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and an ambition to write about ancient history after traveling to the four corners of the world? Cases and clients took him and his beloved Marguerite, whom he married in 1934, around the globe. These journeys involved not only work for clients but also time to learn, absorb and study so that he would return home with all the necessary information needed to lecture on current world affairs and to add chapters to his tome on ancient history and civilization. He was a frequent guest speaker for groups such as the Commonwealth Club, the World Affairs Council, and the First Unitarian Church.

Of course, at Il Cenacolo there would always be a standing forum at his disposal. Renzo Turco’s life and Il Cenacolo’s founding and development were inextricably and happily intertwined. He was, as we’d say, present at the creation, one of the original founding members of Il Cenacolo, formed in 1928, with others who were among the elite of Italy’s diplomatic corps, its academics teaching in the United States, and Italian businessmen. They would meet at Campi’s Restaurant on Bush Street, owned and managed by the parents of a past president, Frederic Campagnoli. Performers from the San Francisco Opera would rendezvous there for a post-performance supper, and they would join these distinguished members, who would soon refer to these memorable and animated gatherings as “Il Cenacolo.”


Photo: Berkeley Library Digital Collection


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