Judge Horton returns to Courthouse where he made landmark decision in Scottsboro Boys Case

By  | October 10, 2017 | Filed under: News

ATHENS-Judge James E. Horton Jr. is returning to the Limestone County Courthouse where he upheld justice despite the social pressures of the 1930s to send a black defendant to his death.

 

Described as unassuming, soft spoken, and grounded, Horton’s family said if he were alive, the judge likely would feel humbled at the community effort’s to ensure his presence is a permanent fixture in Downtown Athens. The Judge Horton Monument Committee will unveil a bronze statue in the likeness Judge James E. Horton Jr. at an Oct. 19 ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. on the west side of the Courthouse.

 

“Judge Horton’s family is looking forward to this special day, and we know that he would feel very humbled and honored,” said his granddaughter, Kathy Garrett.

 

For five years, a group of citizens has been working on a project to honor Horton, which led to the creation of the Judge Horton Monument Committee. The committee has raised $60,000 from the community. The committee hired Mobile-based sculptor Casey Downing Jr. to create the 400-pound statue that will stand life size at 6-feet, 2-inches. Horton will stand on a 3-foot base of Alabama limestone created by French Mill Stone, Inc., a local company owned by Mike Grisham.

 

“We received donations from various aspects of the community such as lawyers, farmers, Hispanic businesses, history buffs, family members and many others,” said committee member Holly Hollman. “The committee wanted this to be a community supported effort.”

 

Retired Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Woodroof spearheaded the committee. He once presided in the courtroom where Horton set aside an all-white male jury’s guilty verdict and death sentence in the re-trial of black defendant Haywood Patterson, one of the Scottsboro Boys falsely accused of raping two white women. In that courtroom is a bronze plaque dedicated to Horton and the decision he rendered on June 22, 1933. Woodroof said when he read the short dedication to Horton on the plaque, he knew the public should give Horton more recognition. The plaque includes a phrase Horton learned from his family, “Let justice be done through the heavens may fall.”

 

“Judge Horton recognized these qualities to the core of his being,” Woodroof said. “He helped solidify these values in the consciousness of all the attorneys and judges who have served this great county.”

 

Woodroof said Horton’s dedication to justice cost the judge his judicial career. He did not win re-election but did become a successful cattle farmer.

 

“I am told that many years after this ruling, Judge Horton remarked to his son, Don, that the decision was not even a hard decision for him to make,” Woodroof said. “He recounted to Don that he had had many very difficult decisions to make in his judicial tenure, but justice guided him to grant Patterson a new trial, and for Judge Horton, it was that simple.”

 

Woodroof said the statue of Horton at the west entrance will accentuate the beautiful renovation of the Courthouse.

 

“It says to all the value and respect we, as Limestone Countians, have for justice and for the fair and impartial treatment for all men and women,” Woodroof said.

 

 

 

 

 

Be part of the unveiling for the Judge James E. Horton Jr. Monument Dedication

When: Oct. 19 at 2 p.m.

Where: West side of the Limestone County Courthouse

Seating: There will be seating for the public on the courthouse lawn.

Other Details: The unveiling ceremony will include remarks by retired Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Woodroof, Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough, Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks, history enthusiast Chris Paysinger and prayer by Athens City Councilman Frank Travis. The Horton family will attend.

Reception: There will be a public reception after the ceremony in the courtroom where Horton set aside the verdict.

Learn More: To learn more about Horton’s role in the Scottsboro Boys case, go online at  http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/trialheroes/essayhorton.html

 

 

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