COVINGTON — The Newton County Judicial Center was renamed Tuesday night in honor of a man who served as a judge there for more than 17 years.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a proposal by Chairman Marcello Banes to rename the center in honor of the late Horace J. Johnson Jr., who died unexpectedly July 1. The name change takes effect immediately; a formal ceremony will be held at a date to be announced later.
At Tuesday night’s BOC meeting, Banes called Johnson a pillar of the community and someone who has “done so much for this community. Judge Johnson has done so many great things in our community that I think he is definitely worthy of this honor of having his name on the judicial center."
Johnson was recognized by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce as the R.O. Arnold Award winner in 2017 and was named the Martin Luther King Jr. Trailblazer Award recipient in 2020. Johnson was also given the Frederick B. Kerr Service Award by Leadership Georgia in 2018, an organization he served as president of in 2009.
Johnson served on a number of boards throughout Newton County, including the founding advisory board of the Boys and Girls Club, the Washington Street Community Center, United Bank of Covington, Board of Counselors at Oxford College and the founding board of Newton Mentoring Inc. He was also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Covington, serving as president in 2018-19, and helped Newton County veterans through the Veteran’s Accountability Court he started in 2016.
Johnson, who grew up in the Sand Hill community, attended Washington Street School and was among the first Black students to integrate Ficquett Elementary School. He then attended Cousins Middle School and graduated Newton High School.
Johnson continued his education in Newton County at Oxford College of Emory and graduated from Emory University before earning his juris doctor at the University of Georgia Law School.
Johnson was appointed Newton County’s first African American Superior Court judge by Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said she and Johnson developed a deep friendship over the years. She recalled when the county was building an expansion of the Judicial Center and ran short on funding.
“I can say without a doubt that Horace let me know not once, not twice, but probably weekly that we needed to get that building finished and finish it the right way,” said Schulz. “So I think it is very fitting that it is named in his honor because I know it was a labor of love to make sure the building met with his expectations and was completed to the standard he expected. … I think he would be tremendously proud to be honored this way.”