Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham was the guest speaker at the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association Law Day Banquet at Merry Acres Restaurant. The event was attended by lawyers and judges from throughout the Albany area and the state.
ALBANY, Ga. -- "Realizing the Dream: Equality for All" was the theme of the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association's Law Day Banquet at the Merry Acres Restaurant on Monday.
Present were lawyers and judges from throughout the Albany area and the state. Among them was Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham.
Benham, the first African American to serve on the state's high court, had a mother who was a businesswoman, a father who was mayor pro tem and a brother who was the first black Eagle Scout.
"I didn't have high aspirations. I just didn't want to embarrass the family," he quipped.
Benham, who described himself as a member of the "bygone generation," took the opportunity while at the podium to discuss the positive role the courthouse has in society.
"It is usually sitting in the most prominent part of the city. That is not just a coincidence," he said. "Birth certificates, death certificates are there. If there are no records of you anywhere else, there is record of you in the courthouse.
"Principles are upheld in the courthouse, and values are respected in the courthouse. The courthouse is the only place all citizens stand equal. ... I hope you will see what I have seen and that is that good things happen in the courthouse."
The Battle of Marathon -- the Persian invasion of Greece in 490 B.C. -- as well as the founding of the United States, the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement were all used as examples in history by Benham to illustrate the four stones in the "foundation of freedom."
"Those four incidents form the foundation of freedoms we enjoy today," he said. "There is something we feel about being free ... we are willing to run the risk of making mistakes.
"... Not only do good things happen in the courthouse, but good things happen all over the country."
Following Benham's remarks, the Rev. Garrett Andrew of First Presbyterian Church in Albany was presented with the Liberty Bell Award by the Dougherty Circuit Bar Association.
Among the criteria for the award is stimulation of a sense of civic responsibility. Andrew was recognized through the award for community service and his commitment to ending poverty in the Albany area.
He sits on several boards, among them Mission Change, which strives to raise money and awareness for area individuals, causes and organizations in need.
This year, the Bar invited area middle school and high school students to enter an essay contest regarding the Law Day theme. The middle school winners were Samantha Pappas, Yvonne Ramos and Joseph Stoklosa -- all from St. Teresa's School -- who received first, second and third place, respectively.
In the high school contest, Morgan Miller and Madison Miller from Sherwood Christian Academy won second and third place, respectively, while Mark Pickett Jr. of Westover High School won first place.
May 1 is the official Law Day, but celebrations often take place both before and after that date.