On Friday, February 3, 2017, more than 500 friends and associates joined the family of Judge WIllie J. Lovett, Jr. at Impact Church in Atlanta, GA to celebrate a life well lived. Judge Lovett, a native of Savannah and graduate of Beach High School, was remembered fondly by Pastor Olu Brown, two sitting Georgia Supreme Court Justices, mentors, mentees and others. We are pleased to provide his obituary below.
The Honorable Willie Jake Lovett, Jr. was born on March 22, 1963 in Savannah, GA. He transitioned to his eternal resting place on January 30, 2017. As a youth, he attended St. Luke Baptist Church and St. Thomas AME Church. As an adult, he continued God’s work with Impact Church.
Judge Lovett attended Pearl Lee Smith Elementary School, John S. Wilder Middle School, and Herschel V. Jenkins High School from 1977–1978. He graduated as Valedictorian from Alfred Ely Beach High School in 1981, where he served as the President of his senior class. While at Beach High School, he was a member of the football team, a member of the National BETA club, and National Honors Society. He was a very active member of the Beach High School Alumni Association. In 1981, he received the emancipation award from the late attorney Robbie E. Robinson for having the highest GPA for a high school student in Chatham County.
In 1985, Judge Lovett earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, cum laude with Distinction from Yale University, and he received the 1985 Roosevelt Thompson Prize for his commitment to public service. He served as the President of the African American Black Cultural Club, was a member of the 1985 Scroll and Key Society, played on the football team his freshman year, and he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Zeta Chapter. In 1988, Judge Lovett earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he served as a Comments Editor on the HARVARD CIVIL RIGHTS-CIVIL LIBERTIES LAW REVIEW, and in 1991 he earned his Master of Laws in Litigation from Emory Law School. Judge Lovett was admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States District Courts for the Northern and Middle Districts of Georgia, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Judge Lovett was a pillar in the legal community, the Atlanta Metropolitan community, and his Impact Church community. A longtime advocate for children and youth, his appointment as the Presiding Judge of the Fulton County Juvenile Court in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Fulton County, GA in May of 2013 was the next logical step along the path of a legal career spanning 25+ years, much of which was spent in positions that allowed him to effectuate change in and impact the lives of our young people.
Prior to becoming a Presiding Judge of the Fulton County Juvenile Court, Judge Lovett clerked for the Honorable Joseph W. Hatchett, former Chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, served as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Atlanta’s Law Department, and worked as an associate at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP, Ford & Harrison, LLP and Troutman Sanders, LLP. From 1999 to 2009, he was the Deputy County Attorney for the Fulton County Office of the County Attorney. From 2009 through 2013, he was the Director of the Fulton County Office of Child Attorney. Judge Lovett also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School from 2013 to 2015.
Judge Lovett served as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) (2016-present). He was in the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2016. Judge Lovett was the President of the Gate City Bar Association in 2009, served as a member of the Gate City Bar Association Executive Board, was a Member at Large, and in 2015 served on the Judicial Section Board.
For the Gate City Foundation, Inc., Judge Lovett was the Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2010, and voluntarily served as a mentor to young attorneys on the practice of law. Judge Lovett was a Member at Large, Judicial Section (2015), and a Member of the Board of directors for the Atlanta Bar Association (2009). Judge Lovett was the convention Co-Chair for the National Bar Associations 88th Annual Convention, and a member of the Executive Board (2003 – 2010).
At his beloved Impact Church, Judge Lovett served on the Leadership Team, the Finance Team, Men of Impact, the Count Team, as the leader of several Connection Groups, and provided his wisdom and support to Impact Give Back. In 2013, he went on a mission trip to Haiti. He had a passion for horticulture, which he shared through planting for both Impact Church campuses.
Judge Lovett served as the Board of Directors Chair of Chattahoochee Hills Charter School from 2012-2015, and the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors from 2010-2012. In 2009, he was a Member of the Board of Directors for the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.
Judge Lovett had a passion for traveling, golfing, gardening, recycling, sporting events, cooking and grilling. Children in his court often referred to him as the “bow tie Judge.”
Judge Lovett was preceded in death by his Grandmother, Effie Mae Lovett, and Aunt Emma Lovett Warren, who both played a vital role in his upbringing, his father, Willie Jake Lovett, Sr., his sister, Lee Author Russell Bacon, and his brother, Earnest Ronald Russell.
Judge Lovett leaves to cherish the memory of his time on this earth his loving wife of 14 years, Seletha R. Butler, Atlanta, GA, his mother, Velma Bradley Russell, Savannah, GA, his uncle, Walter Bradley, Jr. (Mentoria), Savannah, GA, his aunts, Elizabeth S. McGuire, Florence, AL, and Dr. Rose Butler Hayes, Chicago, IL, his siblings, Angelyne R. Johnson (Paul), Savannah GA, Kathye Jinks (Elden), Savannah, GA, Omie B. Flournoy, Savannah, GA, LeRoy Russell, Atlanta, GA, Deborah Russell Dozier (James), Jacksonville, FL, and his brother-in-law Clarence Bacon (PrincEtta), Savannah, GA. His sisters-in-law, Seketha A. Mitchell, Lisman, AL, Sonjia Butler, Tuscaloosa, AL. His first cousin, Virgil Lovett (Shirley), Denver, CO. His nieces, Monifa Johnson, Yolanda Russell, Ayeola Johnson, Tiphanie Jinks, Velma Patrice Russell, Angel Russell, Chandria Whitted, and Tersheria Mitchell (Kevin). His nephews, Ryan Jinks (Maya) and Da’Von Redmond. A host of great nieces, great nephews, cousins, his godchildren, other relatives, dear friends, and colleagues.
Judge Lovett’s professionalism, sharp legal mind, affable spirit, kind smile, sense of humor, and his ever-present willingness to accept and assist all who crossed his path will be missed immensely.