Mahala Dickerson: Trailblazing Alabama Attorney

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Mahala Dickerson
Image courtesy: The Anchorage Museum

As Women’s History Month unfolds, it’s crucial to celebrate the remarkable individuals who have shattered barriers and paved the way for generations to come. Among these trailblazers stands Mahala Ashley Dickerson, an attorney whose journey exemplifies resilience, determination, and a commitment to justice.

Early Years and Education: Mahala Dickerson was born in rural Montgomery County, Alabama, to parents who instilled in her a profound appreciation for education. Her thirst for knowledge led her to attend Miss White’s school, where she forged a friendship with her classmate Rosa Parks. After completing high school, Dickerson pursued higher education at Fisk University in Nashville before earning her law degree from Howard School of Law.

Breaking Barriers: Upon obtaining her law degree, Dickerson returned to Alabama, where she made history by becoming the first Black woman admitted to the state bar. Establishing her own firm in Montgomery and Tuskegee, she fearlessly tackled cases concerning the rights of women, people of color, and workplace issues. Her advocacy was instrumental in challenging systemic injustices and fostering equality in the legal arena.

Venturing to Alaska: In a bold move, Dickerson relocated to Indianapolis with her family before embarking on a transformative journey to Alaska. Captivated by the state’s natural beauty, she became the first Black attorney to practice law in Alaska in 1950. Her presence not only diversified the legal profession but also inspired future generations to pursue their dreams regardless of societal barriers.

Legacy of Leadership: Throughout her illustrious career, Dickerson continued to break barriers and pave the way for others. She made history as the first Black president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, demonstrating her unwavering dedication to advancing gender equality in the legal field. In recognition of her outstanding contributions, she received the prestigious Margaret Brent Award from the American Bar Association in 1995, joining the ranks of esteemed legal luminaries such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Enduring Impact: Even in her later years, Mahala Dickerson remained a beacon of inspiration and resilience. She continued to practice law well into her nineties, leaving an indelible mark on the legal profession and society at large. Following her passing in 2007, her family entrusted Duke University with her extensive papers, ensuring that future generations can learn about her remarkable legacy and unwavering commitment to justice.

Conclusion: Mahala Dickerson’s journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance, courage, and advocacy in overcoming obstacles and effecting meaningful change. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us honor her trailblazing spirit and strive to emulate her unwavering commitment to justice and equality.

Re-reported from the article originally published in The WVTM 13

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