Sturkey was born in Lincolnton, Ga. At age 6, his parents separated, and he moved to Shelby with his mother, who worked in a textile mill.
When he was young, his parents separated and his mother remarried to a solider who fought in WWII. This cause him to want to be a Navy photographer. He’d worked on an aircraft carrier that bombarded North Korea for 10 months during the Korean War.
Because of his military experience with photography, everyone wanted him to work for them. After the military, he became chief photographer at The Charlotte Observer and be the first Southerner to win the National Newspaper Photographer of the Year Award.
Sturkey allowed for the photography of all sorts of things, especially hard times like the KKK and the Korean war.