RUSTBURG, VA - At their September 5, 2023 meeting, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors unveiled the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) road sign indicating the portion of Highway 501 to be named in memory of Judge J. Samuel Johnston, Jr., a former judge who served the locality for over 30 years.
Judge Johnston received a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama, and law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing law for a mere five years, Judge Johnston was appointed to preside over the Campbell County General District Court at the age of 30. This appointment made him the youngest sitting judge in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In 1981, Judge Johnston was named Judge of the Campbell County Circuit Court, where he presided over hundreds of trials that impacted thousands of lives and was known for his thoughtfulness, fairness, and commitment to justice. During his tenure as the Circuit Court Judge, he advocated for a new courthouse to not only protect victims and witnesses in criminal cases, but to have the proper facilities to conduct fair and audible hearings and trials. A new courthouse was dedicated on June 20, 1991.
Following his retirement in 2008, Judge Johnston remained active in the legal community by serving as a substitute Judge for the 24th Judicial Circuit, participating in a statewide mediation group, and performing numerous speaking engagements where he served as inspiration to other Judges and attorneys. He authored a book entitled Why Judges Wear Robes, a humorous account of life in the courtroom, and became a supporter of the Campbell County Museum at the Historic Courthouse, where he had presided over cases for many years.
In 2019, the Campbell County Board of Supervisors authorized staff to work with VDOT and local Virginia delegation to have a portion of Route 501 in Campbell County dedicated to Judge J. Samuel Johnston, Jr., but at that time Virginia State Code did not allow naming a road for a living person.
Judge Johnston passed away on December 10, 2022, at the age of 76.
At their February 7, 2023 meeting, the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to request the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and VDOT to formally name a section of Route 501 from South Lynchburg City Limits to the east Route 24 intersection for a total of 7.96 miles the Judge J. Samuel Johnston, Jr. Memorial Highway, in recognition of Judge Johnston’s faithfulness and dedication to the citizens of Campbell County.
On March 29, 2023 the CTB, on a motion offered by Bert Dodson, adopted a resolution naming the section of U. S. Route 501, Campbell Highway, from the South Lynchburg City Limits to the east intersection of State Route 24, Campbell County, as the “Judge J. Samuel Johnston, Jr., Memorial Highway.”
"It seems only fitting that this section of road is named in memory of my father," remarked Whit Johnston, son and spokesperson of the Johnston family. "He traveled this portion daily, and would use his travel time to sort his thoughts of those cases that are hard to process. In his time on the bench, he was proud to have served Campbell County and its people - his people. We thank you for recognizing him and his service to a county he so loved."
February 7, 2023 Board adopted Resolution recognizing Judge J. Samuel Johnston and naming the portion of Highway 501 in his honor
July 31, 2023 Memo to the Board of Supervisors announcing the completion of the project, and designating September 5 as the unveiling date