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 Benjamin Richardson

 

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.

 

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.