JONESBORO — Humanitarian and former Clayton County Probate Judge Eugene E. Lawson died Monday.
Lawson, 75, had a long bout with diabetes, and succumbed to the disease and other illnesses, said the judge’s older daughter, Deborah Butcher.
“He was an excellent and loving father,” Butcher said.
Lawson began practicing law in Jonesboro in 1971 and he was elected Clayton County Probate Judge in 1983. Prior to becoming the probate judge he served as a Clayton County Juvenile Court Prosecutor for 10 years.
Born in Cleveland, Tenn., on July 30, 1937, Lawson leaves behind his wife, Mildred, and their three children, Deborah Butcher, Eddie Athearn, and Barbara Parker along with numerous other relatives.
“He took on a ready-made family,” she said. “I was 8 and Eddie was 5.”
Butcher, 61, said her parents married in her mother’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn. The couple later moved to the Atlanta area in 1964, and moved to Jonesboro in 1965.
“They were married for 53 years,” Butcher said. “It was very, very, very important to him that we respected our mother.”
Lawson taught at the University of Georgia Continuing Judicial Education Center from 1984 until his retirement in 2003.
Butcher said one of the things she will never forget about her father is how he instilled in his children the knowledge of accurately spelling and using words.
“He made sure we developed our vocabulary,” she added. “None of us went into law but he taught us how to form and win an argument. He was very proud of us, and bragged on us.”
Butcher said family and friends always talked about him being an extremely caring man.
“He loved all of his grandchildren,” she added. “He was especially close to Barbara’s two girls, Jenna Parker and Callie Parker. They lived about a half-mile from him in Jonesboro and because he was retired, he spent more time with them.”
For many years, the judge taught the Jonesboro United Methodist Church Men’s Sunday school class.
Lawson’s service to his community was exhibited in his work as the co-founder of the Association on Battered Women of Clayton County, the Rainbow House and Samaritans Together.
He was also the founder and a member of the Spivey Foundation Board. Clayton State University’s amphitheatre bears his name, the Eugene Lawson Amphitheatre.
“Our hearts were very heavy, Judge Lawson was one of the very close friends of the Spiveys,” said Sam Dixon, Executive and Artistic Director of Spivey Hall at Clayton State University.
The amphitheatre is located between the University Center of Clayton State University and Spivey Hall.
“It was built to honor Judge Lawson’s role as a founding trustee of the Walter and Emilie Spivey Foundation,” Dixon said. “ Judge Lawson was a dear friend of the Spiveys. The foundation created Spivey Hall and provides on-going financial assistance for Spivey Hall and music scholarships at Clayton State University.”
Emilie Spivey created the Spivey Foundation by drawing close friends of hers, and as such they were the stewards of her vision, he added.
“Neither Walter nor Emilie Spivey lived to see Spivey Hall built, but because of the faithful stewardship of the trustees, including Judge Lawson, Spivey Hall was completed according to Mrs. Spivey’s wishes and continues to serve the community as the Spiveys would have wanted.”