Mahala Ashley Dickerson (October 12, 1912 Montgomery, Alabama - February 19, 2007 Wasilla, Alaska) grew up in Alabama on a plantation owned by her father. She attended a private school, Miss White's School, where she began a lifelong friendship with Rosa Parks, who would become a hero of the civil rights movement.
Dickerson graduated from Fisk University in 1935, married Henry Dickerson and had triplets, Alfred, John and Chris (a well known professional bodybuilder). She later divorced, and when the boys were 6, she went to Howard University School of Law, becoming one of four women to graduate in her class of 1936. In Indiana she married Indianapolis attorney and later Presidential candidate Frank R. Beckwith. She practiced with him for a year and then opened her own law office. After working as an attorney in Alabama and Indiana, she moved to Alaska with her sons, where she homesteaded.
She was the first black female attorney in her home state of Alabama in 1948 and the second black woman admitted to the bar in Indiana in 1951. She was also Alaska's first black attorney, admitted to the bar in 1959 and the first black president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, 1983-1984.
According to her Alaska Bar Association profile, Dickerson prosecuted "one of the first equal pay cases on behalf of women university professors who received less pay than their male counterparts." In 1995, she was awarded the Margaret Brent Award from the American Bar Association, an honor also given to U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Dickerson practiced law into her nineties and was considered an advocate for the poor and underprivileged. She told the Anchorage Daily News, "In my life, I didn't have but two things to do. Those were to stay black and to die. I'm just not afraid to fight somebody big...Whenever there's somebody being mistreated, if they want me, I'll help them."Delayed Justice for Sale