News Release

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Zaundra Brown
Director of Public Relations and Information
404.297.9522, ext. 1757


State Bar of Georgia Awards GPTC Director with Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service

DeKalb County - March 01, 2017

J. Virgil Costley, Jr., the paralegal studies program director at Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC), yesterday received a Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service.  That prestigious award is bestowed by the State Bar of Georgia to lawyers and judges, who as members of the Bar, make positive contributions to society beyond their official duties.

“I am proud of Virgil Costley for being chosen by the State Bar of Georgia for the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service,” said Dr. Jabari Simama, president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College.  “Virgil possesses a deep sense of social justice and, in keeping with our college’s mission to offer an outstretched hand to those who have been left behind, he has committed himself to a lifetime of assisting individuals who are less fortunate,” concluded Dr. Simama. 

Costley earned his undergraduate degree from Emory University in 1965 and graduated from Mercer University School of Law in 1968.  After finishing law school and passing the bar exam, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where he honorably served as a deputy staff judge advocate and as a military judge. 

“I came back to Newton County in 1972 when I finished my obligation to the U.S. Air Force,” Costley said.  “Several community members reminded me that I would have time both to volunteer and to practice law.  Throughout my legal career, I’ve tried to give back to my local, state---and occasionally---national communities.  I was surprised when I got the call from the State Bar telling me I was a recipient of this award.  It’s especially meaningful because I’ve known Justice Benham for 30 years.   He’s a colleague I hold in high esteem.  I’m humbled, and I am pleased to receive this award named after my good friend,” he stated.  

After completing his stint in the military, Costley worked in private practice until he was appointed as judge for the Newton County Juvenile Court.  His tenure spanned 20 years, but it was his outreach to disadvantaged and disenfranchised youth---and the mentally ill---that more accurately characterizes that period in his career.  During that time, Costley taught at the National College of Juvenile and Family Law, served as a trustee for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and was elected president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. 

In 1989, Costley was appointed by then-Governor Joe Frank Harris to serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Unexplained Child Fatalities and the Governor’s Commission on Drug Awareness and Prevention. 

Costley returned to private practice upon his retirement from juvenile court.  He later sought a new challenge that would allow him to better serve the community.  He developed the criminal justice program and the paralegal studies program at Georgia Piedmont Technical College.  Currently, Costley serves as the director of Georgia Piedmont’s American Bar Association (ABA)-approved paralegal studies program. 

Costley is a member of the Newton County Historical Society and previously served as president of that organization.  In addition, he is a member of the Oxford College Alumni Board and the American Association for Paralegal Education.  Costley also serves on the Newton County Board of Education.
Throughout his career, Costley has been on advisory committees, task forces and boards of directors of organizations that are dedicated to protecting our nation’s children.  He also was named Outstanding Child Advocate of Year in 1994.     

Costley has donated an untold number of hours assisting clients on a pro bono basis, and he spent many years working as a volunteer firefighter for Newton County.     

About the Justice Robert Benham Awards for Community Service
Created in 1998, the Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service has been presented annually to lawyers and judges in Georgia who have made significant contributions to their communities.  These awards recognize volunteerism among Georgia judges and lawyers.  All honorees are members of the State Bar of Georgia.      

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About Georgia Piedmont Technical College
Established in 1961, Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC) is one of the top technical colleges in Georgia. As a student-centered institution, GPTC prepares individuals with the skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing, global economy. In August 2016, Georgia Piedmont was ranked among the top ten technical colleges in terms of enrollment by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. GPTC’s graduation rate is more than 74.3 percent, and its graduates secure employment at a level resulting in a 98.7 percent placement rate. With nearly 4,000 students, Georgia Piedmont’s adult education program is among the largest in the state. The college has 12 learning centers in DeKalb, Newton, Rockdale and Morgan counties. As set forth in its student catalog, Georgia Piedmont Technical College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, sex, religion, disability, age, political affiliation or belief, genetic information, veteran status, or citizenship status (except in those special circumstances permitted or mandated by law). Contact Lisa Peters, the ADA Coordinator, at 404/297-9522, ext. 1154, or at the main DeKalb campus, 495 N. Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, GA 30021 Room A-170; or Dr. Debra Gordon, the Title IX Coordinator, at 404/297-9522, ext. 1176, or at the main DeKalb campus, 495 N. Indian Creek Drive, Clarkston, GA 30021 Room A-103 for assistance. For more information about our graduation rates and other important program information, please visit our website at

A unit of the Technical College System of Georgia.