Justice Robert Benham is currently the longest serving member of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Appointed by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in December 1989, he was the first African-American ever appointed to the Supreme Court in its more than 140 years. On July 17, 1990, he won statewide election to a full term on the Supreme Court. He served as Chief Justice from 1995-2001, elected by his peers. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Benham served on the Georgia Court of Appeals for five years.
A lifelong resident of Georgia, Justice Benham was born to Jesse Knox Benham and Clarence Benham in Cartersville, Georgia. He obtained a B.S. in Political Science from Tuskegee University in 1967 and also attended Harvard University. In 1970 he obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia, Lumpkin School of Law. He obtained Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia in 1989.
After completing law school, Justice Benham served in the U.S. Army Reserve, attaining the rank of Captain. He then served briefly as a trial attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. He later returned to Cartersville, where he engaged in the private practice of law. He served as Special Assistant Attorney General and enjoyed two terms as the President of the Bartow County Bar Association.
Justice Benham is a member of the American Judicature Society, the Lawyers’ Club of Atlanta, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the Georgia Bar Foundation. He is a Trustee of the Georgia Legal History Foundation. He is a past vice president of the Georgia Conference of Black Lawyers, a former board member of the Federal Lawyers Association and of the Georgia Association of Trial Lawyers. He is also the former chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Drug Awareness & Prevention and a member of the National Conference of Chief Justices. He is a member of the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee and a member of the Governors Southern Business Institute.
Justice Benham is married to the former Nell Dodson of Cartersville and they have two sons. An avid woodworker, Justice Benham enjoys spending his leisure time with his sons, making wooden toys and music boxes.