FORSYTH COUNTY — This year’s recipient of the Liberty Bell Award was completely surprised by the recognition.
Given each year by members of the Forsyth County Bar Association during the organization’s annual Law Day observance, the award goes to someone outside the legal profession who has made outstanding contributions to the local judicial system.
James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, was named the 2014 recipient during a Law Day luncheon at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.
“For the first time maybe in a very long time, I’m a little bit embarrassed, and I do some embarrassing things,” joked McCoy, who believed he would be presenting an award to someone else.
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley said the task of finding a recipient who is not a member of the bar — usually a challenge — has been much easier the past couple of years.
“That is because as you drive through downtown Cumming, you will see a magnificent structure going up and that is the Forsyth County Courthouse that will replace the 1976 courthouse,” Bagley said.
McCoy, he said, was chosen as this year’s Liberty Bell recipient for his “huge role in the passage” of the 1-cent sales tax extension in November 2011.
Revenue from the tax is being used to fund the construction of the new courthouse and jail facilities. Both structures, which will total about $100 million to build, are expected to open by mid-2015.
McCoy said the campaign for the sales tax referendum was important work.
“In the chamber of commerce, sometimes you have the opportunity to work on things that not everybody thinks is completely necessary, but you know better and you know that they have to be done to operate well as a community,” he said.
“And, thankfully, this community agreed with that and I was honored to get to be a part of that process.”
Besides the Liberty Bell Award, several Forsyth County students also received recognition during the Law Day event.
Mollie Hill, a senior at Forsyth Central High School, was presented the Kathy Vail Mock Trial Scholarship for her outstanding participation in the county’s mock trial program.
Vail, a former North Forsyth High School teacher, established the mock trial program in the 1980s. The scholarship in her honor was created in 2012.
The Richard B. Neville Scholarship, which has been awarded for many years in honor of its namesake judge who passed away in the mid-1980s, was presented by Neville’s widow, Charlotte Neville Dewberry, and grandson, John Neville.
The award went to Daniela Calderon and Harrison Sloan, both seniors at West Forsyth High.
It is presented each year to one female and one male student from Forsyth who plan to enter the legal field.
Three fifth-graders from Kelly Mill Elementary School also were recognized by Bagley for winning a Law Day poster contest. Reese Burnett won first place, while Ashlyn Kaczkowski took second and Nicole Kemnitz third.
Former Georgia Secretary of State and current U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel also addressed the crowd of about 150 people on the theme of “why every vote matters.”