Cheri Beasley (1991)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2019 Distinguished Alumna Award Winner

A legal scholar and proud North Carolinian, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley made history this year as the first African-American woman to lead the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Beasley brings more than 20 years of judicial experience to the role, having served as a district court judge and as a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals prior to beginning her tenure on the Supreme Court. At the time of her appointment as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she was only the sixth woman and only the second African American woman to ever serve on the court.

She is a graduate of Douglass College of Rutgers University and earned her JD from UT’s College of Law in 1991. She also earned her Master of Laws from Duke University School of Law in 2018.

Her dedication to the rule of law and administration of justice have earned her many accolades, including the UT Trailblazer Award, the Fayetteville State University Chancellor’s Medallion, the Gwyneth B. Davis Award from the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, and the Women of Justice Public Official Award. She was a Henry Toll Fellow with the Council of State Governments and has been inducted into the Rutgers University African American Alumni Alliance Hall of Fame and the Douglass Society, the highest honor bestowed by Douglass College of Rutgers University.

Beasley serves on the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) and as chair of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission as well as the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism. She is a member of the American Bar Association and has served as vice president of the North Carolina Bar Association.

She enjoys spending time with her husband of 25 years, Curtis Owens, their twin sons Matthew and Thomas, and the family dog, Stanley. She also remains active in her community through leadership in her church, First Baptist Church of Raleigh, her support of hunger relief efforts, and her weekly visit to a local elementary school where she reads with first graders. Beasley is also passionate in her support for young and aspiring lawyers. She is a frequent mentor to students and judges and lectures at the University of North Carolina School of Law and North Carolina Central University School of Law.