African American History Month 2018

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 Robert D. Walker, Jr.

Judge Robert D. Walker, Jr.In 2008, Judge Robert Walker became Gwinnett County’s first African American full time magistrate judge. He earned a B.A. in history from Emory University and a Juris doctor from University of Florida.

Prior to his judicial role, Walker was a private practice attorney in Gwinnett for six years, specializing in indigent defense. He has also previously been an assistant district attorney. He also served as an attorney during eight years of active duty with the United States Air Force.

 

 

2016 Profiles

2017 Profiles

 

 

February 1 - Judge Horace T. Ward

Judge Horace T. Ward

Judge Horace T. 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 - Judge Cassandra Kirk

Judge Cassandra Kirk

Judge Cassandra KirkSince 2015, Judge Kirk has served as Chief Magistrate Judge of Fulton County where her mission has been to empower litigants through innovation, efficiency and accessibility.

Judge Kirk’s legal experience includes service as a jurist (Chief Magistrate and Associate Juvenile Court Judge), prosecutor (Assistant District Attorney and Associate Special Assistant Attorney General), criminal defense attorney (Conflict Defender), civil litigator (associate, Stokes & Murphy, PC and Child Advocate Attorney) and Administrative Director (Director of Legal Services, State Merit System; Interim Director, Office of the Child Attorney and Magistrate Court Administrator).   Cassandra received her B.A. from Williams College, and her J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law.

She was the first judge in Georgia to become a certified Child Welfare Legal Specialist. Cassandra is also a certified National Institute for Trial Advocacy (N.I.T.A) Skills Trainer, a NADCP (National Association of Drug Court Professionals) Consultant, an Office of Justice Programs peer reviewer and a member of the NCJFCJ (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges) Juvenile Treatment Drug Courts Team of trainers. Additionally, she serves on the Chief Justice’s Access, Fairness, Public Trust and Confidence Committee.

She supports the community through service to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., North Avenue Presbyterian Church (Elder), alumni activities with the Regional Leadership Institute and Leadership Atlanta, and the Boards of Directors of The League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County, Star C, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and Street Grace.

February 3 - Justice Robert Benham

Justice 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. 

Justice Robert BenhamHe 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 4 - Judge AT Walden

Judge AT 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 5 - Judge Joyette M. Holmes

Judge Joyette M. Holmes

Judge Joyette HolmesJudge Joyette M. Holmes is a native of Valdosta, Georgia. Upon graduation from Valdosta High School, Judge Holmes attended The University of Georgia where she earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Judge Holmes then went on to earn her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in Maryland.

Prior to being appointed as the Chief Magistrate Judge for Cobb County, Judge Holmes served the citizens of Cobb County and the State of Georgia in numerous roles. She served as a prosecutor under District Attorney D. Victor Reynolds and Solicitor Barry Morgan. Judge Holmes also operated and served clients in private practice in the Law Office of Joyette Holmes.

Judge Holmes’ professional memberships include being a member in the Georgia Bar Association, the Cobb County Bar Association and the Northwest Georgia Bar Association. Her community involvement includes serving as a board member for the Boys and Girls Club and the Music on Wheels Foundation of America. She is also a member of the Cobb County Branch of the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Judge Holmes is a member of Second St. John Full Gospel Church where she serves as the Scholarship Committee Chair and the Middle and High School Youth Mentor.

February 6 - Judge John E. Morse

Judge John E. Morse

Judge John E. MorseBorn in Savannah, Georgia, Judge John E. Morse, Jr. attended the public schools of Chatham County before becoming the first African American to attend and graduate from the Savannah Country Day School in 1976.  Earlier in the fourth grade his desire for the legal field had been inspired by civil rights attorney Bobby Hill.

Consequently, after graduating from Georgia State University, with honors, in 1979, he went on to graduate from Mercer University Law School in 1982 before becoming a legal assistant for his mentor, Judge Eugene H. Gadsden.

After nearly a ten-year stint as an Assistant District Attorney in Chatham County, he was appointed in 1992 by Gov. Zell Miller to the State Court of Chatham County, becoming one of the youngest judges of a trial court in Georgia. One year later, he became the Chief Judge of the State Court of Chatham County making him the first African American to be chief judge of any court in Chatham County.

In 1995, Gov. Zell Miller appointed Judge Morse to the Superior Court of Chatham County, where he has served since. He has served as Administrative Judge for the 1st Judicial District of Georgia and on numerous federal, state and county task forces or committees. Judge Morse has, or is serving, on numerous legal, civic and community organizations.

 Judge Morse is an ordained minister having pastored congregations over 27 years. He has been married to his wife, Debbie for 36 years and they have two children, Jessica and Jennifer.

February 7 - Judge Clarence Cuthpert Jr.

Judge Clarence Cuthpert, Jr.

Judge Clarence CuthpertJudge Clarence Cuthpert, Jr is the Probate Judge of Rockdale County. Prior to being elected in November, 2016, Judge Cuthpert practiced law throughout the State of Georgia for 20 years. His areas of practice included Probate, Employment, Administrative, Discrimination, Criminal, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death law.  

 Judge Cuthpert received his Bachelor of Science degree from Savannah State University, Master of Public Administration degree from Georgia Southern University, and Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University. He is admitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit; U.S. District Court for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts, Georgia; Supreme Court of Georgia, Georgia Court of Appeals; Superior and State Courts of Georgia; and is a registered Mediator and Arbitrator through the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. Judge Cuthpert is also a member of the Council of Probate Judges of Georgia, Rockdale Bar Association and NewRock Legal Society.

The Probate Court handles estate matters, vital records, marriage licenses, weapons carry licenses, guardianships, conservatorships, miscellaneous and ceremonial duties.

February 8 - Judge Eric Richardson

Judge Eric Richardson

Judge Eric RichardsonGovernor Nathan Deal appointed Judge Eric Richardson to the Fulton County State Court in August 2013. He previously served as a litigation partner at the law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP and as a Deputy City Attorney for the city of Atlanta.

Judge Richardson earned his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Rochester. He earned his law degree, cum laude, from Cornell Law School in 1994. Judge Richardson began his legal career as a litigator at Latham & Watkins in New York City in 1994. In 1998, he relocated to Troutman Sanders in Atlanta, where he spent 11 years, including 7 as a litigation partner. In 2009, he moved to the public sector, joining the city of Atlanta as a Senior Assistant City Attorney. He was promoted in 2011 to Deputy City Attorney for Atlanta, where he managed all litigation for the City until his appointment to the bench.

February 9 - Judge Asha Jackson

Judge Asha Jackson

Judge Asha JacksonJudge Asha Jackson was appointed to the DeKalb County Superior Court in February 2012 by Governor Nathan Deal. She was elected without opposition in 2014. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Jackson was a partner practicing commercial litigation at the Atlanta office of Barnes and Thornburg, LLP. Before that, she practiced tort litigation and professional negligence at the Atlanta office of Carlock, Copeland, and Stair, LLP. As a judge, she presides over more than 1,000 civil, criminal, and domestic cases assigned to her division.

Judge Jackson is very active in the community and is the creator of Project Pinnacle, a one year mandatory in-court experience requiring non-violent offenders under the age of 27 to meet with her and a number of volunteer community workers. The goal of Project Pinnacle is to discourage offenders from committing further offenses by providing them with life skills training, GED and technical school assistance, and moral recognition workshops. Judge Jackson also created and presides over DeKalb County’s first felony mental health accountability court, an intensive two-year program for persons with mental illness who are charged with felonies.

Judge Jackson earned a BA in Health and Society from the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, and was awarded a Juris Doctorate from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA in 2000.

February 10 - Judge Romae T. Powell

Judge Romae T. Powell

Judge Romae T. PowellJudge 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 11 - 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 - Judge Aaron B. Mason

Judge Aaron B. Mason

 

Judge Aaron MasonJudge Aaron B. Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 1993, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Emory University School of Law in 1996.  After graduating from law school, Judge Mason became the first African American prosecutor in the State Court of Clayton County when he went to work in the Clayton County Solicitor General’s Office in 1996.  While in the Solicitor General’s Office, he worked as a Senior Assistant Solicitor General and prosecuted hundreds of criminal matters as lead attorney in the State Court as well as directed a trial team. 

 

 

In 2000, Judge Mason was hired to work for Thurbert Baker, then Attorney General of the State of Georgia. During his tenure at the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Mason worked in several practice areas and handled a myriad of cases involving the Professional Licensing Board Division, the General Litigation Division and the Environmental Law Division.  While in the General Litigation Division he defended numerous state officials, to include Governor Sonny Perdue and Attorney General Thurbert Baker, in multi-defendant complex civil rights and tort actions. He also successfully handled several federal jury trials, winning all of his cases by receiving defense verdicts for his clients. 

 

In August of 2010, after working ten years in the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Judge Mason to the State Court Bench of Clayton County.  Judge Mason was the first African American to serve on Clayton County’s State Court bench.

 

In December of 2016, after serving six years on the State Court Bench of Clayton County, Governor Nathan Deal appointed Judge Mason to the Superior Court in Clayton Judicial Circuit of the Sixth Superior Court District in Georgia to fill the vacancy created by GA. House Bill 804.  In addition to handling a challenging general jurisdiction docket, Judge Mason is the presiding Judge over the Clayton County Felony Drug Court. 

 

 

Judge Mason is active and engaged in the local and legal community.  Judge Mason is a Past President of the Clayton County Bar Association (2009 – 2014).  He also served as the District 4 Chairman of the Counsel of State Court Judges (2014 – 2016).  He enjoys interacting with children from local high schools by judging Mock Trial competitions. Judge Mason is a member of Andrew’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Jonesboro.  He is happily married to Donna, his wife of twenty years, and they are the proud parents of two lovely girls.

February 13 - 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 14 - Judge Benjamin Richardson

Judge Benjamin Richardson

Judge Benjamin RichardsonJudge Benjamin Richardson, an Atlanta native, graduated from Howard University and the University of Georgia School of Law.  He began his legal career in Athens, GA, then took a job for the Muscogee County Office of the Solicitor General in 1994.  In 2003, he was appointed as the first African American Solicitor General for Muscogee County by Gov. Roy Barnes. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed to the State Court of Muscogee County in 2014.

Judge Richardson was named “Solicitor General of the Year” in 2008 and in 2004, he was Selected as “Forty under Forty” Brightest Young Georgians, Georgia Trend Magazine. Judge Richardson is the namesake of the Columbus Technical College Criminal Justice Honor Society Award: The Judge Benjamin S. Richardson Criminal Justice Student of the Year award.

February 15 - 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.

February 16 - Judge Mark Anthony Scott

Judge Mark Anthony Scott

Judge Mark Anthony ScottJudge Mark Anthony Scott was elected as a Superior Court Judge in the Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit in August, 2004, and presides over civil, domestic relations, and criminal felony matters.

Judge Scott attended California State University, Fresno, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication in 1980, and graduated from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. in 1984.

Judge Scott is a graduate of the National Judicial College, and the recipient of the 9th Annual Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service.

February 17 - Judge Eugene Gadsden

Judge Eugene Gadsden

Judge Eugene GadsdenJudge Eugene Gadsden, a native of Savannah, GA, became the first African American Superior Court Judge in the Eastern Judicial Circuit in 1979 when he was appointed by Gov. George Busbee. In the following year, he won election and remained on the bench until his retirement in 1992.  Judge Gadsden was educated in the public schools of Savannah and graduated from Georgia State Industrial College (now Savannah State University) in 1934 and earned his law degree from North Carolina Central University, Durham in 1953.


Judge Gadsden was well known in the Savannah area for his civil rights work. He was one of the lead attorneys in Stell vs. Chatham County Board of Education, a case in federal court that sought end the system of assigning children to schools based on race.  Judge Gadsden served as an assistant district attorney from 1968-1974 in Chatham County and served on the Recorders Court of Savannah.

February 18 - Judge Andrew Hairston

Judge Andrew Hairston

Judge Andrew HairstonJudge Andrew Hairston began his life near Winston-Salem, NC the son of a tenant farmer and housekeeper. Judge Hairston attended Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, TX and later Texas Christian University. He moved to Atlanta to preach at Simpson Street Church of Christ.


After several years in Atlanta, Judge Hairston enrolled in John Marshall Law School. He served as Atlanta City Solicitor until his appointment to the City Court of Atlanta. In 1982, Judge Hairston was elected as the court’s chief judge – the first African American to hold that office, a position he held until his retirement in 2005.

February 19 - Judge Barbara Caldwell

Judge Barbara Caldwell

Judge Barbara CaldwellJudge Barbara H. Caldwell was appointed to the Magistrate Court of Douglas County on October 20, 1984. A former teacher in the Douglas County School System, Judge Caldwell is a graduate of Morris Brown College and the University of Georgia. 

Active in local community activities and organizations “where much can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit”. Judge Barbara has received several awards, honors and distinctions including the February 19,2009, Distinguished Public Service Award and February 19 has since been declared JUDGE BARBARA H. CALDWELL DAY by the city of Douglasville, Georgia.

She serves as mentor for young ladies residing at the Youth Village in Douglas County. Judge Caldwell worked with the Douglas Co Sheriff’s MACE youth program (Making A Change Early) which is nationally televised on the Scared Straight program. She has also worked with other youth groups including Youth against violence, Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, (ATL), Local Ombudsman School, the Legacy Club and Youth With Wings.

Her personal story is detailed in All Rise: A Conversation with Judge Barbara H. Caldwell by Frederick Jones. A champion of youth and families and lives her faith transparently on and off the bench.

February 20 - Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler

Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler

Judge Desiree Sutton PeaglerJudge Desiree Sutton Peagler, a native Alabamian, graduated from Emory University School of Law and summa cum laude from Troy University.  Prior to accepting an appointment as an Associate Judge at the DeKalb County Juvenile court in 1997, Judge Peagler was an ADA with the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. Judge Peagler made history in 2005 when she became the first African-American female to be named a full judge at the court. Judge Peagler served as the first African-American chief judge of the court from 2005 until 2015.

During Judge Peagler’s tenure as chief judge of the court, the court became second juvenile court in Georgia to create a Juvenile Mental Health Court; received recognition from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Business with the Bright Idea Award; received Recognition of Excellence Award at Workforce Innovations Conference in Anaheim, California; implemented a program with DeKalb County School District to place school-based probation officers in middle and high schools; received one of 28 awards from US Department of Labor to create Youth Creating Change program designed to help improve long-term labor market prospects for court-involved youth; implemented model, comprehensive program to supervise juvenile sex offenders; designed and implemented model program for attorneys representing parents in dependency matters; implemented electronic filing for selected documents in dependency cases; among other achievements.

Judge Peagler has served on the Board of Trustees for the DeKalb County Public Library, the Board of Directors for the Decatur Rotary Club, the Board of Directors for Leadership DeKalb, the Advisory Council for Youth Leadership DeKalb, the Board of Directors for the DeKalb Council on Literacy, the Committee for Justice for Children, the Board of Directors of the Green Pastures Christian Schools, and the Board of Directors of the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center.  She has worked on various committees and task forces for various other organizations in the community.

In addition to receiving a Distinguished Service Award from the DeKalb History Center recognizing her as “an exceptional Law and Justice leader who made a positive impact on DeKalb County,” DeKalb County and the City of Doraville designated days in Judge Peagler’s honor.

She and her husband, Correggio Peagler, Sr., have been married for 27 years and are the proud parents of three children.

February 21 - Judge Derek White

Judge Derek White

Judge Derek WhiteJudge Derek White is senior partner at the White Law Group in Pooler. A Georgia Southern and Mercer law School graduate, Judge White serves as Chief Judge of the City of Port Wentworth, Judge of the Municipal Court of Pooler, and Judge Pro Tem of the Recorder’s Court of Chatham County.

Judge White currently serves many civic positions including:  Board of Trustees/Secretary - Georgia Bar Foundation; Board of Directors - Institute for Continuing Legal Education, State Bar of Georgia; President & CEO - United States Tennis Association(USTA), Southern Section. He is a Past President of the State Bar of Georgia Younger Lawyers Division. Judge White has spoken throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada on civil trial matters and has earned the distinguished honor of being deemed a “Trial Advocate,” for the National College of Advocacy as well as being a member of the “40 Business Leaders under 40” by The Savannah Business Report and Journal.

February 22 - 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, where he was the first African American student body president, and his JD from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1991.

February 23 - Judge Sterling Wimberly

Judge Sterling Wimberly

Judge Sterling WimberlyJudge Sterling Wimberly, Chief Magistrate, Burke County served in the US Army Reserves during 1968-1969 in Vietnam.  When he returned back to Georgia, he briefly left the service before returning until 1983.  He worked as a deputy sheriff for seven years and then spent 16 years with McDonald’s.

Judge Wimberly was elected as Chief Magistrate in 2008 and has been re-elected to remain in his post. 

February 24 - 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. Judge Phipps retired in 2016.

February 25 - Judge Rachel Pruden Herndon

Judge Rachel Pruden Herndon

Judge Rachel Pruden HerndonAfter working for then-attorney AT Walden, Judge Rachel Pruden Herndon took the bar examination for the first time in 1937, the only African American out of 80 people.  Years later, she became the first African American woman admitted to the Georgia bar in 1943.

In 1965, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen appointed Judge Herndon to the Atlanta Traffic and Recorders court, a vacancy created by the departure of Judge AT Walden. She retired from her judicial service in 1973.

February 26 - Judge Ronald J. Freeman, Sr.

Judge Ronald J. Freeman, Sr.

 Judge Ronald J. FreemanJudge Ronald J.  Freeman, Sr. is the Chief Judge in the cities of Riverdale, Union City and Forest Park. A graduate of Morehouse College, with high honors, he received his Juris Doctor Degree from Georgia State University College of Law as a Regent’s Opportunity Scholar. Prior to serving as a Municipal Court Judge, Judge Freeman served as a Fulton County Magistrate from 1991 through 2011.

Judge Freeman is a member of the Georgia Council of Municipal Court Judges and occasionally teaches at the Institute of Continuing Judicial Education in Athens, Georgia on “Alternative Sentencing for Youthful Offenders” Judge Freeman also serves as a Mentor Judge for new judges in the State of Georgia. 

He has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications including, Who’s Who Publishing Magazine for Black Judges in America, Gate City Bar Association Judicial Section’s Clarence C. Cooper Award for excellence on the bench and in the community, and in 2017 the Georgia Municipal Clerk’s Council recognized his “U21 Alternative Sentencing Program” as the “Program of the Year” in the City of Riverdale. His U21 Alternative Sentencing Program has been adopted by surrounding cities in the metropolitan areas.

Judge Freeman, a proponent of higher education, has awarded scholarships to college bound high school seniors and law students through the establishment of trusts and endowments, including the Ronald & Gwen Freeman Family Educational Endowment at Georgia State University-School of Law.  In 2014, the Black Law Students Association Chapter (“BLSA”) at GSU-College of Law was renamed in his honor.

Judge Freeman is married to Gwen Hood Freeman and they are the proud parents of Chelsea Freeman Dease, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig and Ronald J. Freeman, Jr., a senior at Woodward Academy.

February 27 - Judge Linda Bratton Haynes

Judge Linda Bratton Haynes

Judge Linda Bratton HaynesJudge Linda Bratton Haynes was born in Upland, California. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 1980 and obtained her law degree from Georgia State University School of Law in 1986. During her third year of law school, Judge Haynes wrote a brief on Psychiatric Patient Privilege that was argued before the Georgia Supreme Court and became a landmark decision in the State of Georgia. Immediately after law school, she worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Robert Benham in the Georgia Court of Appeals.

In 1988, Judge Haynes practiced law with Franklin, Moran and Boyle, where she developed the firm’s bankruptcy division. In 1990, she bought out a section of FMB and opened her own successful law practice, Linda Bratton Haynes and Associates, where she practiced bankruptcy, business law, civil and criminal law. In 1998, she was appointed Judge Pro Tem for DeKalb County Juvenile Court. In 2002, she was appointed Associate Judge of the DeKalb County Juvenile Court. Judge Haynes developed the Truancy Awareness Prevention Program (TAPP) that has successfully assisted in reducing truancy in the DeKalb County Schools. Judge Haynes also developed and presides over the first Juvenile Drug Court in DeKalbCounty. It has been recognized as the most efficiently run juvenile drug court in the State of Georgia.

Judge Haynes is a Member of Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges, National Council of family and Juvenile Court Judges, DeKalb Lawyers Association, DeKalb Bar Association and member of the 2008 Leadership DeKalb class, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Additionally, she is Vice President of A Dancer’s Heart Inc. Judge Haynes is also a recipient of the Tupac Shukar Foundation’s Women in Progress Award and the Atlanta Center for Healing Trailblazer Award.

Judge Haynes was sworn in as a full Juvenile Court Judge on December 19, 2013 and as Chief Judge of DeKalb County Juvenile Court on January 1, 2016.

February 28 - Judge Robert D. Walker, Jr.

Judge Robert D. Walker, Jr.

Judge Robert D. Walker, Jr.In 2008, Judge Robert Walker became Gwinnett County’s first African American full time magistrate judge. He earned a B.A. in history from Emory University and a Juris doctor from University of Florida.

Prior to his judicial role, Walker was a private practice attorney in Gwinnett for six years, specializing in indigent defense. He has also previously been an assistant district attorney. He also served as an attorney during eight years of active duty with the United States Air Force.