COVINGTON, Ga. — When Covington Mayor Steve Horton first heard about Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson Jr.’s sudden death Wednesday morning, he was at a loss for words — a similar response shared countywide.

“It’s unreal,” Horton said. “All I can say — and I’m sure others will echo this throughout the community — is that he was a greatSave and close, great man.”

Horton said he had known the judge for a long time. He was sworn in as mayor by Johnson in December 2019.

The mayor described Johnson as a “trailblazer” for Newton County and the state throughout his career, but what made him special was the man underneath the robe, Horton said.

“Nothing I can say can do justice to that man,” Horton said. “The way he lived his life — I only hope people can look back and say I lived a life like he did.

“It’s a terrible loss,” he added. “It’s a void that I don’t think anyone can fill.”

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams said she and Johnson grew up together, despite a small gap between their age. They sang in the choir together at Grace United Methodist Church. She said their fathers were colleagues, which meant their families often spent time together.

“He was intelligent, compassionate, always looking to resolve issues,” she said.

Williams particularly enjoyed his sense of humor and cherished how friendly he was.

“He didn’t let being a judge affect how he treated others,” Williams said. “He was a perfect gentleman — he got along with everyone — a great husband and a great father… He was a great Christian man and always supported his church.

“He was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things for this community, and he will certainly be missed."

Sheriff Ezell Brown, who has worked in law enforcement for 47 years in Newton County, said he knew Johnson from an early age.

Johnson served as Brown’s personal attorney after his graduation from the University of Georgia School of Law and they remained friends until his death, the sheriff said.

He said Johnson presided over several cases when Brown worked as a sheriff’s detective and later after Brown’s election as sheriff in 2008.

“He grew up here as a pillar of the community — a great lawyer, great judge,” Brown said.

“He’s going to be missed dearly, not only by the judicial system but he’s going to be missed dearly by the community as a whole, and even Georgia as a whole.”

Newton County government, through its public information office, issued the following statement regarding Johnson:

“Newton County is saddened by the death of Judge Horace Johnson. A highly-respected jurist, advocate for his community, terrific friend, husband and father, his passing leaves a large void in our community.”

State Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, said, “It’s a huge loss for not only the Alcovy Judicial Circuit, but it’s a huge loss for Georgia. He and Michelle epitomized public service. I got to know them extremely well through public service through the Leadership Georgia organization. He had a servant’s heart.”

Walton Tribune Editor and Publisher David Clemons contributed reporting from Monroe. Read more on this story at


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