Judge Horton Stands For Justice Once Again

By  | October 20, 2017 | Filed under: News

ATHENS-On June 22, 1933, Judge James E. Horton Jr. walked from his Athens home, where City Hall resides today, and went to the upper floor courtroom at the Limestone County Courthouse to render a decision that shocked the world.

Horton set aside an all-white jury’s guilty verdict and death sentence for a black defendant falsely accused of raping two white women. Horton ordered a new trial for Haywood Patterson, one of the Scottsboro Boys. Although Horton carried Limestone County in his next election, he lost in the overall voting precinct and never held office again. He moved the family home to Greenbrier and became a farmer and cattleman.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, the Judge Horton Monument Committee and Horton family unveiled the Judge James E. Horton Jr. Monument erected at the Limestone County Courthouse in honor of Horton’s commitment to justice.  The ceremony was wonderful and a little over 250 people attended the unveiling.

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks referred to Ecclesiastes 3:4 during the dedication, saying, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. The time to weep, ladies and gentlemen, is when there is injustice in this world. We all stand every day to make sure justice is given.” He ended by added, “Today is a day to dance.”

Retired Limestone County Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Woodroof, who presided in the courtroom where Horton ruled, said he wants those who see the statue and read the historical marker to remember that justice is for all.

Woodroof chaired the committee that raised $60,000 to fund the life-size bronze statue, limestone base and historical marker.

Horton’s granddaughters, Leslie Pate and Kathy Garrett, said the Horton family appreciates Athens and Limestone County for bestowing this honor on their grandfather. Both said they knew him simply as Granddaddy, a loving, humble, and caring man who never regretted making his historic decision.

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