Chief Justice Beasley Maintains Importance of Civic Engagement – GDN Exclusiveby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing Writer February 20, 2019
If ever there were historic accomplishments of pride that North Carolinians could point to as undeniable progress, thanks to aggressive civic engagement and voter mobilization, look as recently as last November 2018. Civil Rights Attorney Anita Earls was elected to the NC Supreme Court, becoming the third African-American currently serving on the seven-member court, joining Associate Justices Cheri Beasley and Michael Morgan.
No other state in the nation has three Black Associate Justices currently serving.
But the Black history didn’t stop there.
On Feb.12th, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he was appointing Associate Justice Cheri Beasley to become the next Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, the first African-American woman ever to do so.
The veteran jurist will serve out the unexpired term of current Chief Justice Mark Martin, who is leaving to work at a university.
The historic appointment further enhanced the state’s already impressive High Court Black history, but none of it would have been possible unless citizens were engaged in the electoral process.
“Voting is important,” Associate Justice Beasley (she will be elevated on March 1st) told GDN.
“I mean, it is the people’s voice for electing the [officials] who they want to serve them. So when people are working in their communities, concerned about the issues that affect so many of us, it is important that we always be informed and [be involved in] whatever process is available.”
Justice Beasley is a native of Nashville, Tennessee, earning her B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Rutgers University/Douglass College. Beasley earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She also spent a semester of study at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.
In the 1990s, Beasley worked in the legal departments of various Research Triangle Park companies, moving on to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. 1994 saw Beasley and her family move to Fayetteville and work in the Public Defender’s Office. After five years there, Gov. Jim Hunt appointed her to the Cumberland County District Court in 1999. Judge Beasley later won election to her seat overwhelmingly and ultimately served ten years on the District Court bench.
It was December 2012 when Governor Beverly Perdue appointed Judge Beasley to take over the unexpired term of Patricia Timmons-Goodson, after several years on the NC Court of Appeals. In 2014, Associate Justice Beasley won election to the seat for a full eight-year term. She was only the second African-American woman ever to serve on the state’s High Court.
With her elevation to the chief justice post on March 1st, Justice Beasley will vacate her current seat, and run for election as Chief Justice in 2020.
“Congratulations Chief Justice Beasley,” posted former Governor Perdue on Facebook. “A strong, bold North Carolina woman with great credentials and experience to lead the Court.”
“I just know that this moment in history is so much bigger than me,” Justice Beasley told GDN. “I’m humbled to accept the appointment of Chief Justice, and I know it makes a difference when little girls and boys can look up to see somebody who looks like them. All children and all people should be able to look up and see diverse groups of people serving, and serving well.”
“So I hope that young people are inspired by my service,” Justice Beasley continued. “I hope that in all the ways that they dream, and offer us hope and promise, that they dream big…and dreams don’t have to have limits.”