Ruffin's name will go on building

Judge fights to have full title on courthouse rather than sign

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The standoff over the new courthouse's name appears to be over.

Judge John H. Ruffin Jr. was a civil rights leader in Augusta. He was the first black member of the Augusta Bar and the first black chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Judge John H. Ruffin Jr. was a civil rights leader in Augusta. He was the first black member of the Augusta Bar and the first black chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

City Administrator Fred Russell said plans have been made to have the full name -- the Augusta Judicial Center and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse -- added to the new building.

Although the county's judges and staff were being moved into the building last week, one judge wasn't having any part of it.

"How do you name a building for someone and not even put his name on it?" asked Richmond County State Court Judge David D. Watkins.

Watkins said he was livid when he heard that Rick Acree of facilities maintenance informed Russell back in December that the name wouldn't fit on the building. Acree asked whether a plaque could be installed instead.

Watkins said he confronted Russell, who took responsibility for the decision.

Watkins said he doubts that it was an oversight considering the fight to get the courthouse named after Ruffin, the rejection of his ideas to install a small exhibit about Ruffin's life and work -- because someone might steal it or the county would be obligated to do it for too many others -- and the decision to ask U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to speak at the building's dedication without consulting anyone in the community.

"It's not (Thomas') fault, but his judicial philosophy is the antonym of what Judge Ruffin's was and what it is in the vast majority of the minority community," Watkins said.

Ruffin was an Augusta-area civil rights lawyer who successfully challenged the city's segregated school system and fought many other civil rights battles.

He practiced law for 10 years before the Augusta Bar invited him to join as its first black member.

He was the judicial circuit's first black Superior Court judge, and went on to become the first black chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

He died in January 2010 at age 75. At the time, he was teaching at Morehouse College.

Leaders in the black community first proposed naming the new Augusta courthouse after Ruffin in 2008. Then, Commissioner Don Grantham said that it would be better to wait and give others a chance to suggest a name.

In October 2009, Commissioner Corey Johnson brought the issue up again. The first vote failed. Black commissioners asked that the matter be reconsidered -- it had been a year, they had proven other buildings in the county and other courthouses in Georgia had been named for people, and Ruffin was a hero for many, they said, according to the minutes of the meeting.

With Commissioner Joe Bowles' change of heart, a resolution naming the building after Ruffin passed.

Russell said the problem was that the resolution and the minutes did not give clear guidance over how the naming was to be done and the city has no consistent pattern.

The water plant named after Max Hicks and the jail named after Charles Webster just have the names on signs. Carrie J. Mays Gymnasium does have her name on the building, however.

The cost of having the name put on the new courthouse will probably be about $10,000, Russell said. There is money in the budget.

That's far less than another shortfall at the new courthouse -- parking.

The city commission's engineering committee also is scheduled to consider a recommendation today to spend $579,536 to create additional parking spaces nearby at Walker Street and James Brown Boulevard.

About 240 employees will work at the new courthouse. It currently has 309 parking spaces.

Comments (17) Add comment
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dickworth1
962
Points
dickworth1 04/11/11 - 03:59 am
0
0
I oppose naming this building
Unpublished

I oppose naming this building after someone that cost Richmond County
a ton of taxpayers money while fighting for forced busing. This forced busing issue is what made Columbia County what it is today and cost
Richmond County billions in revenue from sales tax as well as property tax and school tax. It is the reason egency Mall and other stores closed
because of lost revenue. Freeedom of choice for the students could have
been implimented in stead of forcing you to go where the government
tells you to go, sounds like communism.

Just My Opinion
9303
Points
Just My Opinion 04/11/11 - 04:58 am
0
0
Oh, good grief..what a bunch

Oh, good grief..what a bunch of babies about this whole naming thing! And Judge Watkins is being a big baby by stomping his feet and crying that he's refusing to move into the building unless the name is on it?? Well, his crying and holding his breath has got the name put up. So, I hope that makes him happy...that is until he finds something else to have a tantrum about.

bettyboop
13
Points
bettyboop 04/11/11 - 05:59 am
0
0
whole bunch of bovine

whole bunch of bovine droppings.

seenitB4
173887
Points
seenitB4 04/11/11 - 06:19 am
0
0
Freedom of choice in R

Freedom of choice in R County..... surely you jest......actually maybe Columbia county should name a building after him..... after all he made Col. county what it is today.
Have you ever noticed that forcing people to do something (anything) very seldom brings out the desired outcome.....I tend to think healthcare programs (forced) on the public will also cause undesired results.

Riverman1
171462
Points
Riverman1 04/11/11 - 06:37 am
0
0
Judge Ruffin was a great man

Judge Ruffin was a great man in the history of Augusta as a civil rights leader. It had been agreed to name the courthouse after him and his name should have been placed on the building. The city messed up by not doing it to start with.

I say these things as a white, conservative Republican who also believes it's racist to try to keep Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a native Georgian, from being the speaker at the dedication simply because he is a conservative. I hope the black leaders rethink that position. Judge Ruffin fought for equal rights for blacks. Thomas has the right to be a conservative.

airbud7
3
Points
airbud7 04/11/11 - 06:55 am
0
0
Judge David Watkins makes

Judge David Watkins makes $12,000 a month off RC taxpayers, maybe he should pay for it!

pointstoponder
28493
Points
pointstoponder 04/11/11 - 08:25 am
0
0
The AC posted the email sent

The AC posted the email sent to both the Clerk of Commission and the Administrator when this issue first came up. I don't recall it saying anything about the name not fitting. Buildings, roads, and bridges are frequently named for people with the building signage being the only place where the name appears. Judge Watkins is looking for reasons to be offended. And by the way, if the Commissioners' Clerk was sent the memo, why didn't she inform the Commission over a year ago? This is pure grandstanding.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 04/11/11 - 08:31 am
0
0
What's the big deal? Certin
Unpublished

What's the big deal? Certin people in the community are not happy and it has something to do with race. . . .whats new?

This story should have been published during Master's Week.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 04/11/11 - 08:34 am
0
0
Are there not more important
Unpublished

Are there not more important issues @ hand in Augusta???

seenitB4
173887
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seenitB4 04/11/11 - 08:36 am
0
0
Nope...not during Masters

Nope...not during Masters week.....just ain't fitting--just ain't fitting.

pointstoponder
28493
Points
pointstoponder 04/11/11 - 08:54 am
0
0
Sometimes an oversite is just

Sometimes an oversite is just an oversite. Sometimes the problem isn't your race, it's you.

Batman
706
Points
Batman 04/11/11 - 10:29 am
0
0
.

.

mary.dits
0
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mary.dits 04/11/11 - 09:41 am
0
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the blindfold was never on

the blindfold was never on our lady justice, batman. since when does the commission have such a hard time naming things after people? they didn't always. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tsVFsfjS1g

jayman
4
Points
jayman 04/11/11 - 10:02 am
0
0
Way to go Judge Watkins, keep

Way to go Judge Watkins, keep up the good work.For all who don't like this , well you know where you can go. I have known Judge Watkins for a long time and he is one of the best judges in the Augusta area. Stand your ground Judge Watkins.

Little Lamb
64322
Points
Little Lamb 04/11/11 - 01:53 pm
0
0
They might as well name the

They might as well name the building "Ecclesiastes," because Judge Watkins is vanity, all vanity.

Just My Opinion
9303
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Just My Opinion 04/11/11 - 07:59 pm
0
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jayman, I suppose you'll want

jayman, I suppose you'll want something named after Judge Watkins after he retires or passes, right? Because this issue makes him a champion of human rights and blah-blah-blah?? Hey, maybe you want them to name the new parking lot after Watkins while they're at it? You know, maybe having Judge Thomas come to dedicate the building IS a good thing and we should go and show our enthusiastic support for him being here!

fatboyhog
4714
Points
fatboyhog 04/11/11 - 09:53 pm
0
0
Why can't the building be

Why can't the building be named for one of he many law enforcement officers who gave their life to the service of their community? They gave so much for so little. If you must name a building for a civil rights attorney that segregated the schools, why not name the BOE building for Ruffin? A deputy gets killed in the line of duty, and all they get is a name on a small plaque, but Judge Watkins wants to complain about a name on a plaque verses a name on the building for the Judge?

toppergem
126
Points
toppergem 04/12/11 - 03:08 am
0
0
Come now...two of our local

Come now...two of our local colleges have buildings named after the late Dr. Ike Washington and his wife, Jack B. Patrick, Senator Thomas Allgood and his wife Thelma. As a matter of fact, all of the buildings at the campus of one of these colleges is named for various people in the community. Their names are plastered as big as day on these buildings. Naming this new courthouse after Judge Ruffin should not have been such a big deal and putting his name on the building should be less of a big deal.

Judge Ruffin was not the cause of segregation of the RCBE. Attorney Ruffin was hired to defend the parents of the children who were attending the public school system at the time. He was doing his job and that job was to prove that RCBE was not serving all of its students in a fair and equitable way. The fact that Columbia county's education system flourished after the filing of this lawsuit was due to "white flight"..people not wanting to abide by the changes that were required by the US Justice Department and the unwillingness of some parents to send their children to schools that had previously be all black and substandard. If RCBE had been fair and equitable from the beginning there would have been no suit and no need for Attorney Ruffin to be involved. So stop the maddness folks.

As for Judge Watkins, throwing a temper tantrum...so be it. Every now and then a tantrum or two are needed. He won't be the first to throw a tantrum in this city and he won't be the last to do so. A tantrum is never needed if the right things are done in the first place.

seenitB4
173887
Points
seenitB4 04/12/11 - 05:47 am
0
0
Excuse me toppergem.....I was

Excuse me toppergem.....I was there when the rules changed to sendkids to other schools because of COLOR....What could have been fair was to send ALL neighborhood kids to same school....BUTNO....that didn't happen.... 2 buses would go down the same street to send white kids to inner city schools .....I was there.... Ilived through it & yes IT DID NOT WORK!!! Many parents said NO...I'm paying taxes & I deserve a choice in my NEIGHBORHOOD school.....sooooo w parents left for Columbia county & you now have the MESS of school system to contend with in Richmond county........my daughters couldn't even go to the bathroom w/o fear in the 80% black schools.....
It kinda reminds me of forced marriages in the muslim world.....R county has been screwed since this debacle & I notice all across the nation they have gone back to neighborhood schools.....Imagine that!

ajackson
0
Points
ajackson 04/12/11 - 08:36 am
0
0
It is obvious that some

It is obvious that some people in Richmond County don't know the difference between someone having a tantrum and someone standing for what they believe is right and furthermore people should be less concerned about Judge Watkins' salary because it was voted on and agreed upon that Judge Ruffin's name would go on the building and that's where it should be and that's where it's going to be thanks to Judge Watkins. So to everybody who has an issue with the name going on the building and with Judge Watkins taking a stand, GET OVER IT. Thank you Judge Watkins for doing what so many people in your position refuse to do. My God continue to bless you now and always.
Frieda

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