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Colleagues help Newton County community pay final respects to judge
Johnson tribute
Sheriff's deputies transport the casket containing the body of Judge Horace Johnson Jr. into the Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. Judicial Center in Covington for a tribute ceremony Friday, July 10. - photo by Special to The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Fellow judges and top city and county leaders offered tributes to the late Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. during a ceremony Friday, July 10, in a building newly renamed for him.

The public also got its final chance to see Johnson, whose body lay in state for public viewing following the event at the Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. Judicial Building in Covington.

Alcovy Superior Court Judges John Ott, Eugene Benton and Ken Wynne and Senior Judge Samuel Ozburn were among those paying last respects.

Benton said he served with Johnson for 16 years and called him a “true friend.”

“A true friend is neither an anchor to hold you back or a sail to take you where you want to go. A true friend is a guiding light to show you the way there,” Benton said, his voice cracking. 

“Horace was a bright, shining light that showed the way to a better community, a better court system, and a better state,” he said. 

“Because of who he was and how he lived his life, his guiding light will shine and be a beacon for all of us forever.”

Johnson also was a “great listener,” Benton said.

“He had a way of making me feel welcome, that I could talk to him at any time. And when I talked to him, I always felt better after our conversations. I could come by with my deepest concerns, without judgment or censure.”

Covington Mayor Steve Horton and Chairman Marcello Banes of the Newton County Board of Commissioners presented proclamations for Johnson.

Johnson’s pastor, the Rev. Ralph L. Thompson Jr. of Columbia Drive United Methodist Church, offered a prayer of comfort.

Johnson’s goddaughter, Evie M. Hightower, gave a poetic tribute by reading “When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou.

Ott led the event remotely from his home because he was still self-quarantining after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in late June.

He is chief judge of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in which Johnson served as a Superior Court judge before his death July 1. 

Ott has said both he and Johnson were diagnosed with the disease before Johnson went into cardiac arrest at his home and died.

Seating was limited inside the building as attendees were required to practice social distancing and wear masks. 

Live-streaming of the tribute event was done on YouTube and Facebook. 

Johnson’s family was to take part in a private funeral ceremony for the judge Saturday. 

Meanwhile, Johnson’s family announced in a news release they are working to establish a foundation in the judge’s honor. 

“The family is appreciative of the tremendous support, kind thoughts, prayers and offers of charitable donations to commemorate Judge Johnson. 

“The family will announce details about the foundation, honoring his life and legacy, at a public memorial service at a later date.”

Horace Johnson tribute
Organizers of the Friday event honoring the late Judge Horace Johnson set up an area outside the judicial center for those unable to attend the event because social distancing rules were enforced and limited the seating. - photo by Taylor Beck