Judge Horace Johnson

Horace Johnson

{child_flags:featured}Death of Judge Horace Johnson leaves void in community

COVINGTON — Alcovy Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson, a well-loved and respected jurist in Newton County for more than 17 years, died at his home early Wednesday.

Johnson made history in Newton County as the first Black Superior Court judge to serve the Alcovy Circuit. He was first appointed by Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002 and went on to win election to the post five times, most recently in the May primary election.

On Wednesday afternoon, Chief Superior Court Judge John Ott said Johnson’s death was unexpected and had “shaken us to our core.” He said Johnson conducted court proceedings via Zoom on Tuesday from his home and had planned to do so again on Wednesday.

“It’s a tremendous loss and tragedy for not only the court system, but also for the community and his family,” said Ott “It will be a long time — if ever — that we recover from this. He was just such a tremendous man of integrity and excellence and character in our community, the whole community … His whole life was a positive impact.”

Johnson served the community as both a judge and volunteer with a variety of organizations. His contributions were recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including Newton County’s highest accolade — the R.O Arnold Award — in 2017.

Johnson was presented the award by Louise Adams, a previous recipient of the award, at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.

At the time, Adams praised Johnson’s community service and life-long devotion to education. In researching the award’s namesake, Adams said she found that Arnold’s life and Johnson’s life were “very much alike.”

“They both set a standard by which the community measures its citizens that display extraordinary community service that is built on business leadership, community outreach, church service and, most importantly, education,” said Adams.

Adams said the importance of education was impressed upon Johnson by his parents.

“(He) was taught by his parents that his mind was an instrument, a precious instrumental gift to be valued and cared for,” Adams said. “They also taught him that education was not limited to the classroom. Education was his ability to use what he learned to be better today than he was yesterday.”

In 2018, Johnson was named recipient of the Frederick B. Kerr Service Award, given annually by Leadership Georgia. The award is given to a Leadership Georgia member who has demonstrated enthusiastic and active support of the Leadership Georgia program on a continuing and consistent basis. Johnson served as president of Leadership Georgia in 2009.

Most recently, Johnson was named recipient of the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Trailblazer Award.

In his typical humble fashion, Johnson said he was “honored to be in the company of some great folks who have received it.”

Johnson also reflected on his Newton County roots, saying he is a product of Sand Hill, the Washington Street School and Cousins Middle School.

“I’m just honored to be part of this place we humbly call home,” he said. “Whatever I am, good or bad, you made me, so take the credit or the blame, whichever you find appropriate.”

Newton County issued a statement Wednesday, saying that Johnson’s death “leaves a large void in our community.”

“Johnson leaves a legacy that will be long-lasting in Newton County, maintaining justice from the bench, serving as a member of the Kiwanis Club and leading the county’s mentorship program and veteran’s accountability court with a full heart and so much more,” the statement continues. “Beyond the community he was raised in, Johnson’s service also extended throughout Georgia, including leading the Council of Superior Court Judges and Leadership Georgia.”

Johnson was a graduate of Oxford College, Emory University and the University of Georgia. He served on a number of boards, including the Washington Street Community Center, United Bank of Covington, the Board of Counselors at Oxford College and the founding board of Newton Mentoring Inc.

Johnson is survived by his wife, Michelle, and their two sons, H. James III and Bryant.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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