Georgia judge dies of COVID-19 complications

The Georgia judge is the first sitting judge in the state to die from the virus

EDITOR'S NOTE: Judge T.J. Hudson was identified incorrectly in a previous version of this story. Also, Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson reportedly is the first sitting Georgia judge to die from the coronavirus. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution regrets the errors.

A Georgia probate judge has succumbed to complications of COVID-19.

Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson died late Wednesday, according to members of the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

The Albany, Georgia, woman died after testing positive for the virus.
Stephenson had been quarantining with her husband John Stephenson, a Georgia state court judge, council president T.J. Hudson, a probate judge out of Treutlen County, said in a statement. Stephenson is reportedly the first sitting Georgia judge to die from the virus.


The council first posted on Facebook about Stephenson’s death Thursday morning.

“Our Council sends our sincerest condolences to the family of our friend and colleague, Judge Nancy Smith Stephenson of Dougherty County. Recently, Judge Stephenson had tested positive for COVID-19 and yesterday, succumbed to complications as a result of it,” the post reads.

Hudson later released a statement about Stephenson, speaking to her personality and dedication to her service.

“She was respected among her colleagues, by her staff and the community where she served. Simply put, Judge Stephenson was the best of who we are, not only as probate judges but as public servants. Judge Stephenson had a first-rate intellect, a quirky sense of humor but most of all, she had a love for the law, public service and her family.”

Stephenson, a native of Tifton, Georgia, served as the probate judge in Dougherty County for 27 years. She graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1981.

She is survived by her husband and her two adult sons, Mark and Will. Stephenson attended Albany First United Methodist Church, according to a biography for John Stephenson on the Dougherty County website.

More than 150 people have died from the virus in Georgia as of Thursday, and more than 4,700 people have been diagnosed. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday that Thursday would be the start of a statewide shelter-in-place order to contain the spread of the disease, which has had a significant impact in areas including Dougherty County.

The Department of Public Health said Dougherty County, the center of the outbreak’s largest cluster in Georgia, had recorded 29 deaths as of Thursday, the most in the state. However, Coroner Michael Fowler said Wednesday that deaths now total 37 in Dougherty County, along with 23 others in surrounding communities.

“During this difficult time, we ask for prayers for her family, staff and colleagues and encourage everyone to take the necessary precautions to remain healthy and safe,” Hudson said.

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