Ahead of today’s historic installation, get to know Beasley a little better by reading Courts and Law reporter Melissa Boughton’s excellent, recent profile of our new Chief Justice:
If you told Cheri Beasley when she was a little girl that she would grow up to become North Carolina’s first Black female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, she might have looked at you a little funny.
“I can assure you that I could not have predicted my journey as a young girl,” she said Wednesday in an interview with NC Policy Watch. “I always felt really good, and I always felt led to service in some way, even as a little girl. As a Girl Scout, I was tasked with cleaning parks and that kind of a thing and going to senior citizen centers, and then it just sort of became engrained.”
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Beasley’s new role as Chief Justice on Tuesday. She’s been on cloud nine ever since with an overwhelming sense of love and support from those around her.
Beasley is originally from Tennessee, but she says she got to North Carolina as fast as she could. She was a graduate of Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University, where she majored in economics and political science and minored in accounting and finance.
After school, she worked at the Tennessee Human Relations Commission and investigated claims of discrimination involving age, gender and ability in places of public accommodation, housing and employment.
“It was really there that I decided to go to law school,” Beasley said. “It was a great opportunity to see lawyers in action and to see them take an advocacy role.”
She had hoped to attend law school in North Carolina to be with her soon-to-be husband, Curtis, but “as fate would have it,” she received a full scholarship from the University of Tennessee. The rest is quite literally history.
Beasley has been appointed to the judiciary by three different Governors – the District Court bench in Cumberland County by Gov. Jim Hunt, the Supreme Court by Gov. Bev Perdue and now the Chief Justice post by Cooper. She also served on the state Court of Appeals, where she was the first Black woman to be elected to statewide office without having first been appointed by a Governor.
“I’ve had a life full of highlights,” she said of her career. “I feel incredibly privileged to have served for 20 years in the judiciary. I honestly cannot think about a point in time when I thought that my service wasn’t worthwhile or that it wasn’t gratifying to be in the trial courts and to work with young people, or see a family has a difficulty in their lives and in some way be a part of helping them to come up with a solution.”
Beasley wore a navy blue skirt suit Wednesday and her ears were dotted with pearl earrings. She was matter-of-fact about her love for her work and her dedication to serving all of North Carolina.
“The import of the work directly impacts the jurisprudence of the state, and so even when people don’t have a sense of how the work of this court is affecting their everyday lives, it really does,” she said.
There is great honor, she added later, in being a part of people’s lives in such an impactful way.
“There’s no way that all of us shouldn’t feel a sense of gratitude and obligation to work hard to make sure we’re doing the very best for the people who come before us,” she said. “People in these cases, many of which are very complicated, share their journeys with us. … We have to really appreciate the fact that we’re in a very special place to make tough decisions which affect people and our communities and businesses.”