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UGA-based leadership development institute honors late Newton judge
Horace Johnson Award
Matt Bishop, far right, director of the Fanning Institute at UGA, presents the 2021 Innovations in Community Leadership Award to Judge Horace Johnson Jr.’s family in Covington recently. (Special Photo | University of Georgia)

ATHENS, Ga. — The late Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. was named this year’s Innovations in Community Leadership Award recipient by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia (UGA). 

Johnson was chosen for the award for his “commitment to developing leaders and strengthening his hometown of Newton County and communities across Georgia,” according to the publication UGA Today.

The Fanning Institute presents the award annually to a community or individual that has moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

Johnson’s family accepted the award on his behalf at the annual Fanning Institute Community Leadership Conference, which was held virtually this year on Feb. 18. 

Johnson, a Covington resident, served as a Superior Court judge in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit for 18 years until his death in July 2020 at age 61 after testing positive for COVID-19. 

During his tenure, Johnson launched accountability courts for veterans and for parents who are behind on child-support payments. 

Outside of his judicial service, Johnson worked to create a Boys & Girls Club in Newton County and assisted in the creation of a mentoring program in the county’s school system. 

He was also involved in Leadership Georgia, a leadership training program for young community leaders across Georgia, and was a member of the Fanning Institute Advisory Board which oversees UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. 

“Horace truly embodied what it means to be a community leader and a public servant,” said Matt Bishop, director of the UGA Fanning Institute. 

“He committed his life to creating opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders and helping others reach their goals and aspirations,” Bishop said. “Horace left a legacy of servant leadership and giving back to his community and throughout this state.”

Johnson, a native of Newton County, attended Oxford College and earned degrees from Emory University and the UGA School of Law.

Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Johnson as a Superior Court judge for Newton and Walton counties in 2002.