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Adairsville • Cassville • Cartersville • Euharlee •
Kingston • Lake Allatoona • Summer Hill

194 West Cherokee Avenue | Cartersville, Georgia

The judicial history of African Americans in the South shows many examples of unequal treatment under the law. Historically, African American men were disproportionately represented in the jails and prisons of Georgia and also more likely to be sentenced to death for their crimes. Cartersville saw a number of legal hangings such as that of Will Jackson in 1901, when thousands of spectators reportedly gathered to observe the proceedings, and it has also been the site of three known lynchings that received national attention: those of John Jones in July 1904, Jessie McCorkle in February 1916, and John Willie Clark in October 1930. After the Clark lynching, most of the African American businesses moved out of the downtown Cartersville district, and tucked themselves into largely segregated and primarily residential neighborhoods such as Summer Hill and West End. By the 1940’s, little remained of what was once a thriving community of black entrepreneurs along Main and Church Streets.

However, in spite of those dark beginnings, Cartersville has also had the privilege of giving rise to the first African American judge ever appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court, Justice Robert Benham. Justice Benham was raised in Cartersville, son of Jesse Knox and Clarence Benham, and is married to Nell Dodson. As a young man, Benham attended Summer Hill High School, which was the segregated school for blacks. Active in the Civil Rights Movement, he later became the first African American to establish a law practice in Bartow County. Benham proudly graduated from Tuskegee University in 1967, attended Harvard University, received his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia in 1970, and his Master of Laws degree from University of Virginia in 1989. Benham also served in the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1989 Cartersville native and then-Governor Joe Frank Harris appointed attorney Robert Benham to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Justice Benham subsequently won a statewide election to serve a full term on the court and was later elected, by his peers, to serve as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 1995-2001. Justice Benham has always been a proponent of the fact that we, as people, have more in common than we have things that separate us.



African American

Heritage Trail

Bartow County, Ga

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