Lenbrook celebrates Women’s History Month: Dorothy Beasley

From 50s Fashion Icon to the Georgia Court of Appeals, Lenbrook Women Make History
Many very accomplished women live at Lenbrook. During Women’s History Month, we will share some of their stories and advice.

Dorothy Toth Beasley Knows Her Way Around the Legal System

Dorothy Beasley has worked at various levels of the Georgia, Virginia, and United States legal systems. After earning her law degree from American University Washington College of Law, she became a law clerk for the three Circuit Court judges in Arlington, Virginia, then worked as an associate lawyer at the Arlington law firm of Shadyac, Berg & Nolen.

Upon marrying William H. Beasley, Jr., she moved to Atlanta, where she continued her legal career at Fisher & Phillips law firm, when most firms would not even interview women to serve as lawyers. She then became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia, Criminal Division, representing the State in federal and state courts and in a number of cases before both the Georgia and U.S. Supreme Courts. Five were before the latter court. Thereafter she served as an Assistant United States Attorney, prosecuting federal crimes.  

In 1977, she was appointed as the first woman judge on the State Court of Fulton County by Governor George Busbee. Seven years later, she was appointed as the first woman judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals by Governor Joe Frank Harris, where she served for almost fifteen years. She remained in these offices by way of public election and only had an opponent the first time she ran. While on the appellate court, she persuaded her brethren to add what are now the last two words of the Court’s motto, so it says: “Upon the integrity, wisdom and independence of the judiciary depend the sacred rights of free men and women.”  She was the only woman on the two courts except for the last three months on the Court of Appeals.

“I worked with some very wonderful people and talented judges,” she said. “As a judge, you are a public officer, all of whom are ‘trustees and servants of the of the people and are at all times amenable to them.’  [Ga. Const. Art I Sec II Par. I] It was truly an honor and privilege to be in the public service.”

Later, she worked for the National Center for State Courts in the International Division in Arlington, Virginia, and then as a mediator and arbitrator at Henning Mediation & Arbitration Service after she returned to Atlanta.

“Many people helped me and pushed me along. I happened to be at the right place at the right time for a woman. My advice to young people is never to let an opportunity go by; watch for them, and take them,” she counsels. “Sometimes you may have to seek them out.”

Dorothy says she was very lucky with her career because people mentored her. She recommends for young folks the book Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World, by Admiral William H. McRaven, because it has useful tips on how to succeed. His own career demonstrates this admirably.

Dorothy moved to Lenbrook in March 2020 and now hosts the Writer’s Roundtable and participates in the Great Decisions course and the gardens. “I don’t want my bio to end without doing more,” she says. “I am fortunate because I have good health and want to give to the community in some useful way.”

She is a member of the International Club of Atlanta, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers, the International Association of Women Judges, the American Law Institute, and the Dean’s Advisory Council at American University Washington College of Law.