September 25

Robert Benham

September 25, 1946 - Cartersville

When Robert Benham was appointed the first African American on the Georgia Supreme Court, it was only one of a long line of firsts.

Benham was born in Cartersville in 1946.  He majored in political science at Tuskegee University and attended Harvard before graduating from the University of Georgia's School of Law in 1970.  After a stint in the Army Reserve as a captain, he returned to his hometown, where his list of "firsts" began:   

  • The first African-American to establish a law practice in Cartersville.
  • The first black judge on the Georgia State Court of Appeals, in 1984.
  • Then, running for election to the court, he became the first African-American to win a statewide election since Reconstruction.
  • In 1989, Benham became the first African-American to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court, again appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris.
  • Finally, the first black to serve as Chief Justice, which he did from 1995 to 2001. 

It's a remarkable list of breakthroughs for Robert Benham, born the great–grandson of slaves on September 25, 1946, Today in Georgia History.