Dollar General has its origin in Scottsville, Kentucky, with James Luther "J.L." Turner and his son Cal Turner. James Turner's father died in an accident in 1902 when James was only 11. James had to quit school and never completed his education so he could work the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. After two unsuccessful attempts at retailing, James became a traveling dry goods salesman for a Nashville wholesale grocer. James left the sales job after 10 years and settled his family in Scottsville, Kentucky. During the Great Depression, he began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores. James' only child Cal Turner accompanied his father to these closeouts at a young age, gaining valuable business knowledge and skills.
In October 1939, James and Cal opened J.L. Turner and Son with an initial investment of $5,000 each. The switch to retailing resulted in annual sales above $2 million by the early 1950s. By the mid-1950s Turner had 35 department stores in Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1955 Cal Turner developed his idea of a retail store selling goods for a dollar, based on the Dollar Days promotions held at other department stores, by converting Turner's Department Store in Springfield, Kentucky into the first Dollar General Store. In 1964 J.L. Turner died leaving his son Cal Turner to succeed him.
The company Cal Turner co-founded went public as Dollar General Corporation in 1968, posting annual sales of more than $40 million and net income in excess of $1.5 million. In 1977, Cal Turner, Jr., who joined the company in 1965 as the third generation Turner, succeeded his father as president of Dollar General. Cal Jr. led the company until his retirement in 2002. Under his leadership, the company grew to more than 6,000 stores and $6 billion in sales. In 1997 a distribution center was established in South Boston, Virginia.
In 2000 Dollar General opened a new corporate headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. By the end of 2000 sales at Dollar General exceeded $4 billion. The distribution center in Homerville, Georgia, was closed in April 2000 and operations were moved to a new distribution center in Alachua, Florida.
Cal Jr. retired in 2002 and was succeeded by David Perdue on April 2, 2003.