COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday night, July 7, to name the county courthouse in downtown Covington the Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. Judicial Center.
Chairman Marcello Banes asked the board to rename the building in honor of the late judge who served for 18 years before passing away suddenly July 1.
"He's done so many great things in the community," Banes said.
Commissioners unanimously approved it and it is effective immediately. A formal ceremony will be held at a future date, officials said.
District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz made the motion in the teleconference meeting to approve the naming and said it was "very fitting the judicial center is named in his honor."
She said she met Johnson 27 years ago after first moving to Newton County.
"I know it was a labor of love for him to make sure the building was met with his expectations and was completed to the standard to which he expected and I think he would be really smiling down on us," Schulz said.
The late judge grew up in the Sand Hill community of Newton County, attended Washington Street School and was among the first black students to integrate Ficquett Elementary School. He then attended Cousins Middle School and graduated from Newton High School, according to information from the county government.
He graduated from Emory University before earning his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Georgia Law School.
Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Johnson as Newton County’s first African American Superior Court judge in 2002.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who was first elected to the board in 1996, said he was among a group which asked Barnes to consider Johnson for the judgeship. He recalled asking Johnson in 2002 why he would move from a legal career in Atlanta back to his hometown.
"I can remember it like it was yesterday. He said, 'This is where the opportunity is, and it's my dream, it's my passion," Henderson said.
A service to honor Johnson and visit with his family is scheduled for Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Judicial Center.
Johnson served on a number of boards throughout Newton County including the founding advisory board of the Boys & Girls Club, the Washington Street Community Center, United Bank of Covington, Board of Counselors of Emory University's Oxford College and the founding board of Newton Mentoring Inc., a county news release stated.
Johnson was also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Covington, serving as president in 2018-19. He formed the Veteran’s Accountability Court in 2016 to help veterans coming through the court system.
Among his honors in recent years was the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce's R.O. Arnold Award in 2017 and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Trailblazer Award recipient in 2020.
He also received the Frederick B. Kerr Service Award from Leadership Georgia in 2018, an organization he led as president in 2009.