CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained an error. Thomas Jackson was not Macon’s first black attorney. Below is a corrected version.
Thomas Jackson, on of Macon’s first black lawyer, was a champion of the downtrodden and poor.
He fought for equality and helped usher in Bibb County schools’ integration, giving all local children better access to education.
More than a hundred people gathered Monday as Bibb County’s new juvenile justice center, named in Jackson’s honor, opened for the first time.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Bert Bivins explained to the crowd why commissioners chose Jackson, who died in 1999, as the namesake for the building that’s now home to Bibb County Juvenile Court and several associated agencies.
Bivins said Jackson, a former Macon Municipal Court judge, dedicated his life to serving minorities and the less fortunate.
“I know that he was dedicated to justice and to fairness and did a lot of things which helped our children to develop on equal footing,” he said.
Hopes for what would become the Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center began 16 years ago, soon after Juvenile Court judges Tom Matthews and Quintress Gilbert were tasked with bringing about change and finding programs to help Bibb County’s youth.
“We are hopeful that all of this will make us have a new beginning right here,” Gilbert said of the new facility. “We are not finished with juveniles here. We have much to do.”
District Attorney David Cooke described Juvenile Court as “our last line of defense” against children entering the adult criminal justice system and becoming “just another statistic.”
Experts say crime prevention should start early, in grade school or even preschool.
“By the time a young person makes it here ... we’re running out of chances,” he said.
Public Defender Lee Robinson said too many people are incarcerated in Georgia, which ranks fourth in worldwide incarceration rates.
He said the new building is a monument to renewed commitment toward area children.
“Change the hearts of the children. Provide hope and love to nurture or introduce the transforming grace of God to one child, and you will transform a home, a community, a neighborhood, a city,” Robinson said.
The $7 million building was funded by a special purpose local option sales tax approved by voters in 2011.
All Juvenile Court offices have moved to the new facility, located on Oglethorpe Street between The Bibb County Law Enforcement Center and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.