Proud of His Community, Humble About His Accomplishments
Escorting his daughter for homecoming court, frying fish with his fiancé, riding horses in Bryce Canyon National Park, and fixing up an old Chevy truck. These are just some of the things Judge T.J. Hudson does when he isn’t on the bench in Treutlen or Johnson Counties.
T.J. serves as the Treutlen County Probate Judge, Magistrate Judge, and Election Superintendent — three offices he has held since 2005. Before his election in 2004, he served with the Treutlen County Sheriff’s Department. While there, he met Sheriff Wayne Hooks, who instilled in him a dedication to service and community. He says people were drawn to Sheriff Hooks because “he was big on mutual respect. He was a pillar in his community and in my life. I would not be the man that I am if he was not the man that he was.”
“I’m just an old country boy.”
T.J. always wanted to be in law enforcement like his trailblazing grandfather, Pumpkin Rolison, who was the first black police officer in Soperton. Elected office was not something T.J. aspired to as a child from humble circumstances. However, Sheriff Hooks and a Probate Court Judge both saw a different future for T.J. They thought he would be an exceptional Probate Court Judge and encouraged him to run for office.
Their encouragement has yielded benefits for the whole state. T.J. serves in several capacities that impact the administration of justice across the state, including President-Elect of the Council of Probate Judges, Second Vice Chair of the Election Commission for the Georgia Election Officials Association, and Second vice Chair of the Magistrate Judges Council. He is also a past Chair of the Training Council for the Council of Probate Judges Committee.
Despite these honors, T.J. is an unassuming guy who shows great respect to those who helped him along the way and passes that encouragement to the next generation. He feels a “responsibility to serve as a role model for the kids in my community. I want them to realize their dreams and live up to their fullest potential. I want them to feel connected to their community and more importantly, feel that same responsibility for the generations that come after them.”
T.J. shares his story at local schools, telling students “I’m just an old country boy who worked hard for everything I’ve got.” Just as others saw potential in him and encouraged him to pursue his destiny, he does the same for young people now.
Serving with respect and compassion
“I always try to treat people the way I want to be treated.” That’s how T.J. was raised, and that guides his life. Most of the litigants before him represent themselves and “someone is always going to be upset,” he says. While the court cannot ensure a favorable outcome for everyone, explains T.J., he and his staff can provide the service they would want themselves by ensuring everyone feels like they have been heard and treated fairly, competently, and responsively. On the bench and off, T.J. spends a lot of time listening to people and providing words of encouragement.
T.J.’s desire to help people and make a positive difference in their lives sometimes feels constrained by the limits of the law and his position as a judge in a small town. “As a human, you feel that urge to want to do more and move Heaven and Earth for people,” he says, “but as judges, we can only operate within the scope of the law.”
“Our community is awesome.”
Of Treutlen County, T.J. says “Our community is awesome. I can’t say a bad thing about it.” While he has always felt this way about the place he grew up, a tragic car accident on December 7, 2017, highlighted for him the support and connectedness within the community.
The car crash crushed and broke multiple bones, requiring seven surgeries. T.J. experiences chronic pain, has not been able to drive since the accident, and could not wear a regular shoe for almost a year. Throughout his recovery, he says he was blessed with excellent doctors and endless support. His extended Soperton and Treutlen County family, including his colleagues on the bench, helped him with visits, encouragement, rides, meals, and more.
This support reflects the way that folks in Soperton care for each other in good times and difficult ones. For example, if you visit Treutlen County around the holidays, you are likely to see T.J. and the County Tax Commissioner smoking turkeys and hams and then delivering them to less fortunate families. This tradition, born out of a love for smoking meat and giving back to the community, started when T.J. became a judge.
T.J. feels it is a great honor to serve as the Probate Court and Magistrate Court Judge and would not change a thing about Treutlen County. “It’s a small town; everybody knows everybody,” he says. “For me, my involvement in the community is not something I have to think about or choreograph because Soperton is my home and my love for Treutlen County is deeply embedded in my heart.”