OXFORD, Ga. — To honor one of its “most prominent” alumni, Oxford College of Emory University recently announced the establishment of the Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Endowment to provide need-based scholarships to prospective students.
According to a spokesperson from Oxford College, “generous” donations from alumnus Keith Burns and the Johnson family made the endowment possible.
The Alcovy Superior Court judge died July 1, 2020, of a cardiac arrest. He had been diagnosed with COVID-19 days before.
Johnson grew up in the Sand Hill community and was a graduate of Newton High School, part of the first integrated class to go through the local schools. He graduated from Oxford College of Emory University, then earned a degree from the Goizueta Business School at Emory in Atlanta. He later earned his Juris Doctor at the University of Georgia School of Law. Johnson went into private practice and in 2002, Gov. Roy Barnes appointed him to the Superior Court bench for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, making him the first Black Superior Court judge in the circuit, and at the time of his death was the only Black person to have served as a Superior Court judge in the circuit covering Newton and Walton counties.
Friday, Feb. 5, Newton County’s judicial center in Covington was formally renamed the Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. Judicial Center to honor the late jurist.
Johnson was described as one of the college’s “pioneering and most prominent African-American alumni and spent years as a sought-after and generous mentor to many students” in a statement from Oxford College. It was also said he had an ongoing presence around the Newton County campus. Johnson even agreed to be the 2020 Oxford commencement speaker and was “standing by” for whenever the college could safely gather and celebrate its graduates.
“I can think of no more fitting way to honor the memory and legacy of Horace Johnson than the establishment of this scholarship,” Doug Hicks, dean of Oxford College, said in a news release. “Horace touched the lives of so many students through his counsel, example, and generosity. The Horace J. Johnson Jr. Scholarship will make an Oxford College education possible for a host of deserving students far into the future.”
Johnson also held a presence at Emory in Atlanta, where a conference room in the new student center is named for him and his Emory fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. Burns, who was Johnson’s fraternity brother, called the late jurist a “friend, … brother and a personal hero who epitomized servant leadership.”
“He was also a mentor, role model and active participant in the success of hundreds of Emory and Oxford College students for more than three decades,” Burns said. “A few weeks before he died, we spoke about heeding the call of public service and I believe this scholarship is the best way to honor him and continue his legacy of service.”
Johnson’s wife, Michelle, said he loved Oxford College. She was glad the family was able to provide a donation.
“Horace loved Oxford College, often sharing his story on how he decided to attend, through the encouragement of his parents, because he wanted to attend a different university,” she said. “He was so happy he listened to his parents. Through Horace’s love and energy, our family loves Oxford, too. A gift in his memory to support Oxford students honors Horace’s legacy, and provides the opportunity for students to begin establishing their own.”
Community members are encouraged to contribute to the scholarship fund here.