Military man, statesman, 4th president of Republic of Turkey. (B. June 10th, 1895, Erzurum – D. September 14th, 1966, Ankara). The son of a military family, he studied the primary school in Ordu. After completing the secondary school in Erzincan; he studied at Istanbul Kuleli Military High School. During his senior year, the 1st World War began. Because of the war, his education was interrupted on October 16th, 1914 and he started to serve in 4th Army Command as lieutenant. He fought in the Battle of Dardanelles between 1915 and 1917 as the artillery officer. He was on the battles on the Palestine and Syrian fronts. He participated in almost all the battles on the Western Front during the Independence War. He got promotion and became the captain on 1st September 1922. He entered War Academy on 1st October 1926 and graduated as a staff officer in 1929. In 1927, he married Melahat Hanım and they had one son, Muzaffer. Starting from 1946, he was promoted to the Brigadier General and undertook commands of divisions, corps and the army. In 1958, he was promoted to the rank of General and became the Commander of the Land Forces.
Before the May 27th 1960 Revolution; while he was still a Commander of the Land Forces; he visited Ethem Menderes, who was the Minister of Defense on 2nd May 1960. During his visit, he reflected his personal views to the Minister of Defense, accordingly to the government, expressing his support to the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and a letter reflecting his belief that the Prime Minister should replace the President. This resulted in his suspension from his post, forcing an early retirement on 3rd May 1960. A farewell letter by him, advocating and urging the army to stay out of politics, was forwarded to all units of the armed forces at the time of his departure on leave for Izmir.
After the coup d’état on 27 May 1960, which was organized and conducted by army officers at the rank of colonels and below, Cemal Gürsel, was chosen as the chairman of the military coup and by the National Unity Committee. Following this, he assumed the duties of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of National Defense, also established the new government. During his position, he survived an assassination attempt, but he was wounded. He and other 13 members of the National Unity Committee, including Türkeş, were sent to abroad for an official duty.
While he was the chairman of National Unity Committee, he launched the Erzurum Radio. Gürsel directed the retired general Ragıp Gümüşpala to bring the Demokrat Party members together to form the Adalet Party. By virtue of the 1961 Constitution, which was prepared by the Constituent Assembly and presented for a referendum held on 10th October 1961, he was nominated and gained the majority of the votes at Turkish Grand National Assembly to be the fourth president of Turkey on 21st October 1961.
He initiated the new era of planned economy in Turkey and formed a State Institute of Statistics, launched the State Planning Organization. He promoted the legal rights to form unions, to go on strike in the country and to enact the law of collective bargaining. The establishment of National Security Council (MİT), the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the School of Press and Broadcasting were established during his presidency. He also paved the way for the planning to develop the Southeastern Turkey, the formation of Turkish Radio and Television Association (TRT) (1964), the first use of a computer in the country, the establishment of the first State Research Library, as well as the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) along with many other “firsts”. The production of the first domestic Turkish automobile, “Devrim” (T.N. Revolution), took place with Cemal Gürsel's directive.
Because of a disease that started in 1966, Cemal Gürsel was sent abroad. But, he fell into a coma and was unable to carry on his duties. In accordance with the Constitution, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey ruled that his presidency be terminated due to his ill health on 28th March 1966. When he died, he was laid to rest at the “Freedom Martyrs Memorial” section in the yard of the Atatürk’s mausoleum. His body was later transferred to the Turkish State Cemetery. Excelling in the battles of the Final Offensive, he was awarded the Medal of Independence. A documentary film was made about him by because of the manufacture of the “Devrim” automobile.