'Victory not yet accomplished'
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@mdjonline.com
February 21, 2011 12:00 AM | 4891 views | 28 28 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham spoke to the congregation of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday morning as part of the church's 24th Annual Black History Celebration. <br> Photo by Todd Hull
Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham spoke to the congregation of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday morning as part of the church's 24th Annual Black History Celebration.
Photo by Todd Hull
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MARIETTA – Cobb County should have more black judges, said Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham.

“Although we’ve accomplished a lot here in Cobb County, there is much to be accomplished. We need to have more people who look like you sitting on the bench,” he told members of Marietta’s Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “Those who sit in judgment of their fellow man sometimes might need to look like the people they sit in judgment on.”

There has never been a black Superior Court judge in Cobb.

On Sunday morning, Benham was a guest speaker at the 24th annual Black History Month Celebration at Pleasant Grove, pastored by Pastor Benjamin Lockhart Jr. The celebration’s theme was “Victory Not Yet Accomplished.”

Benham, 64, said there is also a need for more minorities in business ownership and other high positions. He praised the election of the nation’s first black president, which he admitted he never thought would occur in his lifetime, but cautioned that there is more work to be done.

“But I applaud you here in Cobb County,” Benham said. “For though you have miles to go, you’ve come a long way. You’re one of the most progressive counties in this state.”

Benham was the first black justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, as well as the first black person to sit on the Georgia Court of Appeals.

He was named to the high court by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in December 1989 to fill an unexpired term and first won election to a six-year term of his own in July 1990. Benham served as chief justice of the court from 1995 to 2001.

A Cartersville native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1967 from Tuskegee University and law degrees from the University of Georgia and University of Virginia. In April 1984, he was appointed to the state Court of Appeals by fellow Cartersville native Gov. Harris and prior to that worked briefly as a trial attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and for many years in private practice.

However, it was in Cobb where Benham recalled he tried his first case 41 years ago. He was the first black lawyer to do so, he said.

“Not only did I try it, but I won it,” Benham said. “And it shows that we can work together to accomplish things and sometimes race is an irrelevant factor.”

Though he has achieved many accolades during his distinguished legal career, Benham said none of them would have been possible without the investment of his church community back home. As a high school senior, he recalled that members of his church — composed of janitors, maids, porters and cooks — raised $25, presented in a white handkerchief, to help send him to college.

“That was more than 90 percent of the people in my church made for a whole week’s work,” he said.

“But when times got hard and I thought I was in over my head, I’d look in my little pasteboard box and I’d see that handkerchief. And I’d think, ‘Well, somebody has invested in my future and I owe them a return on their investment. So I think I’ll hang on a little while longer.’”

The Rev. Dorie Tuggle, associate minister at Zion Baptist Church in Marietta, was the guest speaker at a later service.

Nicole Moffett, a minister at Pleasant Grove, said the church’s annual black history month program is an opportunity to commemorate brave pioneers and celebrate advancement.

“Our heritage is bittersweet, but rich,” she said. “We have learned to convert our weeping into laughter, our lamenting into singing, and defeat into victory, through God’s grace and his inspiration.”

At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, The Cobb branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will conduct its 8th annual Black History Program at Turner Chapel AME Church on North Marietta Parkway at Fairground Street in Marietta. The event is free and open to the public.
Comments
(28)
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tylers1mom
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October 13, 2011
Sheesh people - stop using the racist term incorrectly. What you really mean is biased or discriminatory. Racist is a termed used to denote hatred or intolerance of an ethnic group or feelings of superiority about ones own ethnic group over other groups. I doubt that any of you would have a problem with a female bemoaning the lack of female judges. When race is part of the equation it's as if a red flag has been waved in front of the bull. As my dad always said "a hit dog will holla"
Stand Back!
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February 22, 2011
He is a prime example of someone who has all the benefits/benevolence that this wonderful country has to offer and, is he able to enjoy any of it because of his predjuices and narrow-mindness? No. As a nation, and as a whole, the next time someone/anyone starts spouting this racist garbage - regardless of their color - we owe it to ourselves, and to those who will follow, to simply tell them to "shut up and sit down!".
top cat
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February 22, 2011
Has America not progressed any more than this in 50 years of racial and gender activism?

This is pathetic.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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February 21, 2011
If IGNORANCE were a crime, Judge Benham would be locked up for life.
RE: AL'06
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February 21, 2011
Sir, you are ill informed. I am a teacher at a Title I school. I can tell you that we do not throw medication at black children and simply deem them special ed. Look at state test scores for blacks and it is clearly identified that the majority are not doing well. It has nothing to do with the teacher as all the children in the classroom are treated the same. As a matter of fact, we cater to those children who need extra help. Part of the problem is the parents who do not make their children do homework, do not feed their children and expect free lunch, and do not come to conferences. We utilize many strategies to help the children to be successful. It takes many months, strategies, and testing to determine if a child has learning disabilities. No one puts a gun to black youths heads and tells them to commit crimes. Whites don't make excuses for thier race. Do the crime, you do the time. Please stop makes excuses for your race, and please do right by Martin Luther King Jr. and stop making a racial issue over everything!
Pam J
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February 21, 2011
I would be curious to know just how many black men and women have applied to be judges in Cobb County? Is Benham saying that we aren't promoting them or that there just needs to be more of them applying? And, quite frankly, I think it was wrong for a man in his position to be saying this. Why single out Cobb County?
cobbybobby
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February 21, 2011
You should only be able to get a job based on your abilities, not your skin color. This is crazy. Next thing they'll be saying there's not enough black referees, not enough black hockey players, not enough blacks in auto racing, not enough black presidents. Get an education and your skin color will not matter as long as you can do the job
Unsub
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February 21, 2011
It was only recently that a disgraced Federal Judge who was removed from the Bench reportedly had made a racial remark in the past suggesting he was prejudicial in regards to racial issues. This caused a review of all of his prior judgements with a view of possibly invalidating some of those cases. Is there anyone out there naive enough to believe the racial-preference remarks of J. Benham will receive the same kind of review? Don't be silly! Racism is a one-way street and always will be as long as caucasians continue to look the other way.
That Guy
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February 21, 2011
I think MLK Jr. would not see it the same as Robert does. The color of ones skin should not be what you see but the mind and heart of the person. Just listin to "I have a Dream" color blind is the only way.
End Racism
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February 21, 2011
Sounded like a very racist speech, at least the way the article is written. If you replace the "black" for "white" everyone would be outraged. Time to move on...let racism end, on both sides, and everyone just treat each other as equals...that's all it takes.
top cat
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February 21, 2011
The Reverend Martin Luther King, a true Saint, taught that all racism is wrong. He asked that people be judged by their character and what they do, not by their skin color or gender.

What a shame his great message has been lost and ignored by those who claim to be his followers.
David G.
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February 21, 2011
This a prime example of black racism and clearly gives another indication of how the multicultural experiment has failed. But this also strikes at the heart of the entitlement mentality perpetrated and cultivated by the leftist elitist for the last 50 years. Its the left in this country that has helped destroy traditional values which in turn has aided in the destruction of the black community and family structure.
okpeople
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February 21, 2011
The reason more young black boys wind up in jail is because they do not have a father figure in their lives to teach them responsibility or right from wrong, The destruction of the black family is the root. The government is a lousy husband, an absent father and an indifferent teacher.
Give God the Glory!
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February 21, 2011
People with twisted minds are so corrupt and will go any extreme to cause division/hatred like the many comments concerning Judge Robert Benham from his speech at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on February 20, 2011. His speech was excellent and well received by many. All of you out there with your negative comments, need God!
Al'06
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February 21, 2011
I just love all of these comments, spoken like true beneficiaries of white privilege. When blacks make up 12% of the population, but 60% of those in our prison system...clearly race matters. When black boys are identified as "problem" students in elementary school and placed on behavioral drugs and shuttled off to special education classes...clearly race is an issue. There is NO study that has ever shown that black people commit more crimes than other racial groups, however, blacks are convicted at far greater rates than any other group by a criminal justice system that's supposedly blind.

Black judges and black professionals excel, in spite of their race not because of it. What Justice Benham said is the truth, but again, when you don't have to constantly be "judged" or hired by people who do not look like you or share a collective history, it's much easier to just place the "race card" label on it to assuage your own guilt and to make you feel better about your "superior" place in society.
Amy D
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February 21, 2011
If you go down to the Fulton County Courthouse and look around you will be hard pressed to find white faces employed in a 50% white county. Try visiting the City of Atlanta offices. Will Judge Benham call for affirmative action to hire more whites in Atlanta or Fulton County government? In fact, what black leader has ever spoken out about inbalances where the blacks are the beenficiaries?
A Taxpayer
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February 21, 2011
This is about the most racist thing I have ever heard a judge say. Why would it take a judge of a certain skin color to judge people based not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character?
Unsub
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February 21, 2011
It would appear Judge Benham is a racist. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Almost everyone would agree that bearing children out of wedlock and committing crimes are the major obstacles for blacks. However, I have never heard a prominent black like J. Benham or any black preacher of which there are hundreds locally, address either of these issues. WHY?????????????????
cobbobserver
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February 21, 2011
While I can appreciate this man's accomplishments in the face of adversity I think his priorities are a bit off. "Cobb County" can not promote black judges to superior court judges unless there are viable black candidates for them. As unfortunate as it is, there are more black students and other minorities (namely hispanic) students dropping out of school every day. I do not want to come off as offensive but when one sees how many children are born out of wedlock to black mothers and what percentage of our jails are filled with black inmates, one needs to think about the environment they are being raised in. Many do not "know" their fathers and a thug mentality is running rampant today.

I wish that all students who have a chance to go to college and to do post-grad work would have a chance to do so. The communities that they live in are so important. If all the children had a church or community rallying around students and encouraging them just like this judge did, then maybe we would see more.

The focus has to be on the communities and how we choose to support our children. Not on the end result.
Mariettan
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February 21, 2011
Instead of insisting that a Judge be appointed based on the color of their skin, why is he not promoting education, hard work, and experience as the best course for becoming a judge. From reading this are we to assume that Justice Benham is in his position simply because of the color of his skin?

I don't think that the Judge's comments are racist, simply ignorant.
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