Inaugural Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. Lecture delivered by Yale law scholar

With support from the UGA’s Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity and Community, the School of Law and the School of Public and International Affairs established the Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. Lecture on Race, Law and Policy in memory of the late jurist, who was a trailblazer for the Black community in Georgia.

carter photoThe inaugural lecture was held virtually in April, with Stephen L. Carter, the Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School, speaking. Carter is the author of 15 books, a New York Times bestselling writer and a longtime columnist.

UGA’s Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity and Community was created to develop initiatives and actions to foster a more welcoming and supportive learning environment on campus. This lecture was one of the first initiatives approved for funding by UGA President Jere W. Morehead (J.D.’80), who has committed $1 million to fund recommendations from the task force.

Johnson was a pioneer throughout his life. He was one of five students who helped desegregate Newton County, Georgia, schools in the 1960s. He graduated from the UGA School of Law in 1982. After briefly working in Atlanta, Johnson became the first Black attorney to practice in his home county. In 2002, he became the first Black Superior Court judge to serve in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit when then-Gov. Roy Barnes (J.D.’72) appointed him to the post. He remained in this role until his death in July 2020.

Johnson modeled the School of Law’s mission of service to state and society, according to Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge. “Throughout his career, Judge Johnson was known for his fairness, compassion and respect for the law. He also was involved in his community and deeply loved his family. This lecture is an opportunity for the university to honor a great individual and jurist while offering the community a chance to learn from pathbreaking Black leaders and legal thought leaders,” Rutledge said.

Of note: When the lecture fund meets its endowment threshold, it has the capacity to support scholarships, fellowships and/or Distinguished Law Fellowships in honor of the late jurist.