African American History Month

Each February, the achievements of African Americans are highlighted during African American History Month.  The Judicial Council/Administrative Office of the Courts looks to highlight influential African American Judges in Georgia during this month.

 

Judge Edith Grant Ingram

Judge Edith Grant IngramJudge Edith Grant Ingram became the state’s first black woman judge in 1969 when she became a judge of the Hancock County Court of Ordinary. The Hancock County native became the county’s probate judge in 1976 and served in that capacity until her retirement in 2004.  

 Judge Ingram graduated from Fort Valley State College (now University) and taught public schools prior to her judicial career.

 

*source Black Firsts http://www.amazon.com/Black-Firsts-Ground-Breaking-Pioneering-Historical...

 

February 1, 2016 - Judge Horace T. Ward

Judge Horace Ward

Judge Horace WardIn 2012, Senior Judge Horace T. Ward retired from a prolific career that began 62 years earlier when Judge Ward became the first African-American to apply to the University of Georgia’s School of Law. 

Born in LaGrange, Judge Ward received a Bachelors Degree from Morehouse College and a Master’s Degree from Atlanta University.  In 1950, Judge Ward applied to the UGA School of Law and was denied admission.  Throughout the 1950’s Ward took his case to federal court, served two years in the US Army, and eventually entered Northwestern University’s School of Law. 

 Judge Ward was appointed to the Civil Court of Fulton County in 1974, the first African-American trial court judge in Georgia and in 1977, he was elevated to the Superior Court of Fulton County.

 In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Ward to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the first African American appointed to the federal bench in Georgia. He took senior status in 1994 and retired in 2012.

 Judge Ward was presented with an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2014 from the University of Georgia School of Law.

February 2, 2016 - Judge Romae T. Powell

 

Judge Romae T. WardJudge Romae T. Powell, an Atlanta, GA, native grew up in the segregated South. Born in 1926, few African Americans were lawyers and fewer still were African American women lawyers.  She attended Spelman College, graduating in 1947 after which she earned her law degree from Howard University.

From 1950 until 1968, Judge Powell practiced law serving African Americans.  In 1968, she was appointed as a referee for the Fulton County Juvenile Court by Judge John S. Langford.  In 1973, Judge Powell was appointed as the full time Juvenile Court Judge, the first African American female judge in the state of Georgia. She served until her death in 1990 at the age of 63.

 

 

During her time on the bench, Judge Powell was elected as the President of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges in 1978.

 In 2003, the Fulton County Juvenile Court dedicated its new facility to her memory: the Judge Romae T. Powell Juvenile Justice Center. 

Adapted from Unsung Foot Soldiers: The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies at the University of Georgia.
http://www.footsoldier.uga.edu/foot_soldiers/powell.html

 

February 3, 2016 - Judge Herbert E. Phipps

Judge Herbert E. Phipps

Judge Herbert E. PhippsIt’s a 200 mile drive from Baker County to Atlanta, but it’s been a much longer road than that for Judge Herbert E. Phipps.  In 2013, Judge Phipps, born and reared in rural Baker County, was sworn-in as the 27th Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia in the court’s Atlanta courtroom. 

At his investiture as Chief Judge, Judge Phipps recalled being inspired by Albany attorney C.B King, the only black attorney in the area, to begin visiting court. “I saw no black attorneys, no black judges, no black jurors, no black law enforcement. Only black defendants.”

He headed to Morehouse College in Atlanta and earned a BA in Political Science in 1964.  He earned his JD from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1971, returning to Albany to work with C.B. King.

In 1980, Phipps was appointed as a part-time magistrate and Associate Judge of the State Court of Dougherty County, becoming the first black judge in south Georgia.  He was appointed to the Juvenile Court of Dougherty County in 1988, then the Superior court in 1995.  In 1999, Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Judge Phipps to the Court of Appeals where he continues to serve.

February 4, 2016 - Justice Robert Benham

Justice Robert Benham

Justice Robert BenhamJustice Robert Benham became the first African American on the Supreme Court of Georgia upon his appointment by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in 1989, just five years after his appointment to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.  In 1995, Justice Benham was selected to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by his peers, a position he held for six years. 

He has earned degrees Tuskegee University, the University of Georgia School of Law, and the University of Virginia.  He is the driving force behind the Justice Robert Benham Annual Awards for Community Service that honor lawyers and judges from the ten judicial districts of Georgia who have made outstanding contributions in the area of community service.

Justice Benham is recognized for being the first African American to win statewide election and to serve as Chief Justice.

February 5, 2016 - Judge Geronda V. Carter

Judge Geronda V. Carter

IJudge Geronda V. Cartern 2007, Judge Geronda V. Carter joined the superior court bench of the Clayton Judicial Circuit as the circuit’s first African American Superior Court Judge.  Previous to her election as superior court judge, she served as the presiding Magistrate Court Judge for Clayton County.   A magna cum laude graduate of Spelman College, Judge Carter earned her juris doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. 

 Prior to her judicial service, Judge Carter’s professional legal experience included working as an associate with a private law firm, serving as Special Assistant United States Attorney for the North District of Georgia and Assistant Regional Attorney with the Social Security Administration. 

 Judge Carter began her legal teaching career in 1997 at John Marshall School of Law and served as an Adjunct Professor at Clayton State University for nearly a decade.

She has been the recipient of an NAACP Outstanding Achievement Award, the National Black Herstory Task Force’s Lucy Terry Prince Award, and the Nu Lambda Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Pink Pearl Mother & Daughter Honor.  Judge Carter received a Distinguished Service Award for Public Service and Human Rights from the Atlanta Club of Frontiers International, Inc.

February 6, 2016 - Judge A.T. Walden

Judge A.T. Walden

 

Judge A.T. WaldenThe son of former slaves, Judge Austin Thomas Walden was a noted attorney and civil rights leader in Georgia during the early 20th century.  Walden, a Fort Valley native, earned a BA from Atlanta University in 1907 and a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1911. He joined the army in 1917 during World War I, attaining the rank of captain and serving as an assistant judge advocate.

 

 

After his military service, Walden returned to Georgia, moving his practice from Macon to Atlanta. He founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League and Gate City Bar Association for African Americans.

 

In 1964, Walden became the first African American judge in Georgia since Reconstruction upon his appointment to the Municipal Court of Atlanta by Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr.

 

 

Adapted from BlackPast.org
http://www.blackpast.org/aah/walden-t-1885-1965

February 7, 2016 - Judge Clarence Cooper

Judge Clarence Cooper

 

Judge Clarence CooperJudge Clarence Cooper retired from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in 2009.  In 1965, the Decatur, GA, native transferred from Howard University School of Law to became one of the first full-time African-American students to enroll in the Emory University College of Law. 

His judicial career began upon his appointment as a judge of the Municipal Court of Atlanta in 1975.  In 1980, Cooper was elected to the Superior Court bench in Fulton County, during which time he presided over the Wayne Williams trial, a position he held until his 1990 appointment to the Court of Appeals of Georgia. 

President Bill Clinton appointed Judge Cooper to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in 1994.

February 8, 2016 - Judge Torri M. Hudson

Judge Torri M. Hudson

Judge Torri M. HudsonJudge Torri M. Hudson or “T.J.” as most know him, is a lifelong resident of Treutlen County and was sworn in as Probate / Magistrate Court Judge as well as Election Superintendent for Treutlen County January 1, 2005.  Judge Hudson serves as Chairperson on the Probate Judges Training Council, is the District 9 Representative and dedicates his time to serving Georgia’s Probate Court Judges. 

A graduate of Treutlen County High School and Macon State College, Judge Hudson began his career in law enforcement in 2000 and was elected to office in 2004.  Born and raised in Soperton, Georgia, Judge Hudson considers it an honor to be the first African-American male elected Probate Court Judge for the State of Georgia.

February 9, 2016 - Judge Vernita Bender

Judge Vernita Bender

Judge Vernita BenderJudge Vernita Lee Bender was appointed to serve as Judge of the Municipal Court for the City of Valdosta in August 2006.

 She obtained an undergraduate degree in English from Albany State University and her law degree from the University of Georgia. Her prior legal experience includes serving as a Judicial Clerk, legal counsel to a Housing Authority, Solicitor of the Municipal Court for the City of Valdosta, and an Assistant District Attorney. In addition, she maintained her own law practice prior to taking the bench.

In 2006, Judge Bender instituted a Mock Trial Program in Valdosta which is utilized as a teaching tool for students and allows students to act as jury in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. The Council of Municipal Court Judges recognized Judge Bender’s work on the Valdosta Mock Trial Program with a Special Recognition Award in 2015.

 Judge Bender currently sits on the Boards of Directors for Easter Seals and the Boys and Girls Club. She previously served as a board member for the United Way. 

February 10, 2016 - Judge Steve C. Jones

Judge Steve C. Jones

Judge Steve C. JonesFor over two decades, Judge Steve C. Jones has served in a judicial capacity. First as a Municipal Court Judge in his hometown of Athens, GA, from 1993-1995, then on the superior court judge of the Western Judicial Circuit after an appointment by Gov. Zell Miller. 

During his time as a superior court judge, Judge Jones, a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia School of Law, chaired the Judicial Qualifications Commission and created the Western Circuit’s felony drug court.

In 2010, Judge Jones was nominated by President Barrack Obama to fill a vacancy on the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. He was sworn-in to the federal judgeship in March 2011.

 

February 11, 2016 - Justice Leah Ward Sears

Justice Leah Ward Sears

 

Justice Leah Ward SearsWhen Former Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 1992, she became the first woman and youngest individual ever on the state’s highest court. To retain her seat, she faced the voters of Georgia that same year defeating her opponent in a state-wide election. In winning election to the full six-year term, she became the first woman to prevail in a Georgia election contest for state office.

In 2005 she succeeded Norman Fletcher as Chief Justice to become the first African-American woman to attain such a post in any of the fifty states.

Sears, a Savannah native, was appointed to the City of Atlanta Traffic Court in 1982. In 1988, she was elected to the Superior Court of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, becoming the first African American woman on that court.

During her final State of the Judiciary address in 2009, Chief Justice Sears said, ““I have had the privilege of working with exceptional people who have dedicated years of hard – and at times heart-breaking – work to make Georgia’s judicial system the very best in the nation.

 

February 12, 2016 - Judge W. Louis Sands

Judge W. Louis Sands

 Judge W. Louis SandsJudge W. Louis Sands, a native of Bradley, GA,  earned his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and continued his time there by earning his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Walter F. George School of Law. He became the Assistant District Attorney in Macon, GA and later became the first African American Assistant US Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

In 1991, he became the first African American to be appointed to the Superior Court of the Macon Judicial Circuit. Judge Sands was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994 for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia where he still serves after assuming senior status in 2014; he served as Chief Judge from 2001 to 2006.

February 13, 2016 - Judge Isaac Jenrette

Judge Isaac Jenrette

 

Judge Isaac JenretteAfter serving 22 years in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Judge Isaac Jenrette retired from the Superior Court bench in 2002. Appointed by Gov. George Busbee in 1980, he went on to become the first African American Chief Judge of the Fulton County Superior Court. Judge Jenrette received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and received his law degree from Atlanta’s John Marshall School of Law.

Judge Jenrette served on the Judicial Council of Georgia as the Fifth District Administrative Judge from 1993 until 1995. Judge Jenrette was the driving force behind the creation of Fulton County's Felony Accountability Court which opened its doors in 1997.  He currently serves as a Senior Superior Court Judge.

February 14, 2016 - Judge Bridgette Campbell

Judge Bridgette Campbell

 Judge Bridgette CampbellJudge Bridgette Campbell, a native of Valdosta, graduated from Valdosta State College in 1982. She continued her education at the University of Georgia and the University of Akron School of Law, where she received her law degree in 1989.

During law school, Bridgette Campbell worked as a law clerk for the Legal Affairs Department at the University of Akron. After the passing the Bar, Campbell accepted a position as an Assistant Solicitor with the Cobb County Solicitor General’s Office in Marietta. After working for seven years in the Solicitor’s Office, went into private practice.

On October 26, 2000, Campbell was sworn in by the Gov. Roy Barnes as a State Court Judge of Cobb County, Division II, and is the first African American appointed to the bench in Cobb County.

February 15, 2016 - Judge Gregory A. Adams

Judge Gregory A. Adams

Judge Gregory A. AdamsJudge Gregory A. Adams is something of a name in DeKalb County. In fact, his name is on the Gregory A. Adams Juvenile Justice Building built in 2007, making him the first judge in DeKalb County to have a building named in his honor.  Judge Adams served as the Chief Judge of the county’s juvenile court for ten years before he was elected to the superior court in 2004; he served as the chief judge of that court from 2013 until 2015. In 2005, a portrait of Judge Adams was hung in the Juvenile Court, the first African American jurist in DeKalb County to have a portrait permanently displayed in a county building.

Judge Adams has served the judiciary statewide in several capacities including as a member of the Georgia Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism, the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Judiciary, and Institute of Continuing Judicial Education. He currently serves as a member of the GA Dispute Resolution Commission.

February 16, 2016 - Justice Harold Melton

Justice Harold Melton

 Justice Harold MeltonJustice Harold Melton was just 38 when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2005. He was not the youngest person ever appointed to the Supreme Court, but he was the first to join the court in a span of ten years.  Melton, a Washington, DC native, was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue. 

 Justice Melton served as Perdue’s Executive Counsel and prior to that, spent eleven years in the Georgia Department of Law. Melton received his Bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and his JD from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1991.

February 17, 2016 - Judge Brenda Cole

Judge Brenda Cole

 Judge Brenda ColeJudge Brenda H. Cole, born and raised in Texas, came to Atlanta to attend Spelman College where she received her bachelor’s degree. She went on to receive her Master’s degree from Clark Atlanta University and her JD from Emory University’s School of Law.

Judge Cole started her career as the Assistant Attorney General in the Fiscal Affairs Division of the Georgia State Law Department. She later served the state of West Virginia for a brief period. She returned to Georgia in 1988 serving as a Deputy Attorney General.

In 1998, Judge Cole was appointed to the State Court of Fulton County by Gov. Zell Miller. She served as the President of the Council of State Court Judges and as a member of the Judicial Council. In 2012, she was awarded the Ogden Doremus-Kent Lawrence award for her dedication and service. Judge Cole retired in 2012 and was appointed senior judge.

February 18, 2016 - Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller

Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller

Judge Yvette Miller

Presiding Judge M. Yvette Miller has had a varied legal and judicial career. From working in the DA’s office in Fulton County to representing MARTA as senior in-house counsel, the Macon native also practiced law in Jesup, GA.  Returning to Atlanta, Judge Miller was appointed Director/Judge of the Appellate Division on the State Board of Worker’s Compensation, Administrative Law Judge, then as judge of the State Court of Fulton County.

  In 1999, Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Judge Miller to the Court of Appeals of Georgia where she became the first African American woman to sit on the court. In 2009, Judge Miller was sworn in as Chief Judge, a position she held for two years.

  A Mercer University graduate, Judge Miller has received many accolades throughout her career including Jurist of the Year by the National Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Division in 2014, the Tradition of Excellence Award from the Georgia Bar Practice and Trial Section in 2011 and the Distinguished Alumnus Award presented by Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 2010.

              She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Mercer University and is a former Board Member of Leadership of Georgia.

February 19, 2016 - Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr.

Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr.

 Judge Horace JohnsonSince 2002 Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr., a Newton County native, has served his hometown community as a superior court judge in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.  Judge Johnson, an Emory University and UGA School of Law grad, was one of the first black students to integrate Newton County schools.

Judge Johnson presides over a Parental Accountability Court, serves as the President-Elect of the Council of Superior Court Judges, and serves on the Judicial Council of Georgia.  Through the years, he has been appointed to various state-wide committees including the Georgia Accountability Courts Funding Committee; the Access, Fairness, Public Trust & Confidence Committee, and the Judicial Council’s Domestic Violence Committee.

February 20, 2016 - Judge Rashida Oliver

Judge Rashida Oliver

 Judge Rashida OliverJudge Rashida Oliver has served as judge of the Municipal Court of East Point since 1999, first as an associate, then in 2003 she was appointed as interim Chief Judge.  In 2005 Judge Oliver, the Georgia State University School of Law graduate, became the Chief Judge, the first black Chief Judge of East Point.  Prior to her judicial career, she worked as a court appointed attorney for indigent defendants for East Point.

In 2011, Judge Oliver became the President of the Council of Municipal Court Judges and served on the Judicial Council of Georgia.  In January 2016, Judge Oliver was appointed a magistrate judge for Fulton County.

 

 

February 21, 2016 - Judge John D. Allen

Judge John D. Allen

 Judge John AllenJudge John D. Allen is a decorated war veteran. Earning five Distinguished Flying Crosses, 23 Air Medals and two Air Force Commendation Medals during his two tours in Vietnam and in 1973, Allen was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain.

After his time in the Air Force, Judge Allen, a Tuskegee University graduate, enrolled in the University of Florida to pursue a law degree. For many years, he practiced law until he became a Recorder’s Court Judge in Columbus.  He served as a State Court Judge for six years until his appointment to the Superior Court bench of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in 1993. Upon his retirement in 2013, Judge Allen took senior status.

Judge Allen served on the Judicial Qualifications Commission for seven years both as a member and as Chair. He also served on the Judicial Council of Georgia for two years by virtue of his role as 3rd District Administrative Judge.

February 22, 2016 - Judge John H. Ruffin, Jr.

Judge John H. Ruffin, Jr.

 Judge John RuffinJudge John H. Ruffin, Jr., was a leading civil rights attorney in the Augusta area prior to his judicial career.  He successfully fought to desegregate schools in Richmond and Burke counties.

 Ruffin, a Howard University graduate, began practicing law in 1961.  In 1986, he was appointed as the Augusta Judicial Circuit’s first the first African American Superior Court judge.  Gov. Zell Miller elevated Judge Ruffin to the Court of Appeals in 1994.  Judge Ruffin served as Chief Judge in 2005-2006, the first African American to hold that position in the court’s history. During his tenure as Chief Judge, the Court celebrated its Centennial Year in 2006.

 Judge Ruffin retired from judicial service in 2008; in 2011 the Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin, Jr. Courthouse was dedicated in his memory.

February 23, 2016 - Judge Gail S. Tusan

Judge Gail S. Tusan

Judge Gail TusanJudge Gail S. Tusan began her judicial career as an Atlanta Administrative Law Judge in 1984. She has served as a magistrate, judge of the City Court of Atlanta, and state court judge for Fulton County. In 1995, Gov. Zell Miller appointed the George Washington University School of Law graduate to the superior court bench of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit.  

 Judge Tusan was elected Chief Judge of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit in 2014.  As Chief Judge, she also serves as 5th District Administrative Judge and has a seat on the Judicial Council.

 She is a founding member and second president of the Georgia Association for Black Women Attorneys and past president of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Judge Tusan is an adjunct law professor at Emory University and faculty member of the National Judicial College.

February 24, 2016 - Judge Larry Mims

Judge Larry Mims

 Judge Larry MimsJudge Larry Mims, a native of Tifton, Georgia, attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he received his BA degree in Government. He enrolled in the University of Georgia School of Law and received his JD in 1980.  Prior to his judicial service, Mims practiced law and served as solicitor-general for 11 years. In August of 2000, Judge Mims was appointed Judge of the State Court of Tift County by Gov. Roy Barnes.

As state court judge, Mims was very active in the Georgia Council of State Court Judges, serving as Secretary, President-Elect and President of the organization. He also served on the Judicial Council of Georgia and was recognized by the Gate City Bar Association as an Outstanding Jurist. In 2012, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System by Gov. Nathan Deal. Judge Mims retired in 2014.

February 25, 2016 - Judge Mary A. Buckner

Judge Mary A. Buckner

Judge Mary BucknerJudge Mary A. Buckner, a Columbus native, has served as a judge of the Recorder’s Court of Columbus since 1984. When appointed as a Pro Tem. Judge, she was the first African American and first woman to serve as a Judge on that court. Judge Buckner was appointed to a full-time judgeship in 1991 where she continues to hear cases.

After graduating from Carver High School, Judge Buckner was one of 24 African American students to integrate Mercer University. She attended Emory School of Law and Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law, earning her JD in 1973.

Active in the Columbus community, Judge Bucker has served on various boards and received awards and commendations.

February 26, 2016 - Judge Tammy Cox Stokes

Judge Tammy Cox Stokes

Judge Tammy StokesJudge Tammy Cox Stokes was appointed to the Recorder’s Court of Savannah in 2004, the first African American woman to serve as judge in Chatham County. The Savannah native earned her JD from the University of Georgia School of Law. Prior to her appointment, Judge Stokes worked as a prosecutor and trial attorney for DeKalb County Juvenile Court and the DeKalb County Solicitors Office.

In 2008, Judge Stokes was elected by her colleagues as President of the Council of Municipal Court Judges, becoming the Council’s first African American female President. In 2012, she implemented the Teen Victim Impact Program which was developed so that judges could give young traffic violators an educational initiative in lieu of or in addition to fines and probation.

February 27, 2016 - Judge Harry B. James III

Judge Harry B. James III

Judge Harry B. JamesJudge Harry B. James, III, a Savannah native graduated from Savannah State College and the George Washington University National Law Center where he received his Juris Doctor Degree.  He presently serves as the first African American Probate Judge of Augusta-Richmond County.

Judge James is well known for his leadership and participation in civil rights programs and is a recognized civic leader in Augusta where he served on several boards and authorities including the founding chairman of the Augusta Land Bank Authority and service on the State Bar Disciplinary Board Review Panel for 1991-1995.

February 28, 2016 - Judge James Bass

Judge James Bass

Judge James BassJudge James F. Bass, Jr., has served on the Superior Court of the Eastern Judicial Circuit for over 20 years. Prior to his 1995 judicial appointment, Judge Bass was the Supervising Attorney for the Savannah Regional Office of the Georgia Legal Services Program. 

In 2001, the Cornell University School of Law graduate, began the first Drug Court in Chatham County. Throughout his judicial career, he has been active on many committees of the Council of Superior Court Judges, as well as having been appointed to Supreme Court Committees such as the Commission on Marriage, Children and Family Law and Court Committee on Equality. From 2006-2009, Bass served as the Chair of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

February 29, 2016 - Judge Edith Grant Ingram

Judge Edith Grant Ingram

Judge Edith Grant IngramJudge Edith Grant Ingram became the state’s first black woman judge in 1969 when she became a judge of the Hancock County Court of Ordinary. The Hancock County native became the county’s probate judge in 1976 and served in that capacity until her retirement in 2004. 

Judge Ingram graduated from Fort Valley State College (now University) and taught public schools prior to her judicial career.

 

*source Black Firsts http://www.amazon.com/Black-Firsts-Ground-Breaking-Pioneering-Historical...