Ann Beeson is the SPLC’s Chief Program Officer, where she oversees programs to fight hate and dismantle white supremacy, advance learning for justice in schools and communities, and preserve and continue the legacy of the civil rights movement through the SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center. With twenty-five years of experience as a civil rights lawyer, nonprofit CEO and philanthropy executive, Ann has transformed institutions and embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change.
Prior to joining the SPLC, Ann served as CEO of Every Texan (formerly the Center for Public Policy Priorities), the leading social justice think tank and public policy organization in Texas, which advocates for equity in and access to health care, education, good jobs and financial security. Ann was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she developed the strategy for distribution of $150 million annually to promote human rights, justice and accountability nationwide. She began her career at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she ultimately served as Associate Legal Director of the National Legal Department. Ann argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous landmark cases around the country and founded groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of human rights and civil liberties. She has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine, and one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.
Deeply committed to racial justice throughout her career, Ann currently serves on the board of the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, which is mobilizing a network of changemakers from South Africa and the United States to build solidarity and action for a more equitable future. She has also served on the board of Welcoming America, and was the founding chair of the Racial Equity Working Group of the State Priorities Partnership (a national network of over 40 state-based organizations). Ann is a strong believer in the role that culture, art and education play in advancing social change. She worked with celebrated theatre artist Anna Deavere Smith to conceive of and raise funds for Notes from the Field, a critically acclaimed performance piece and social justice initiative about the school-to-prison pipeline, told through the personal accounts of young people, parents and administrators.
A proud Texan and southerner, Ann obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology and ethnomusicology from the University of Texas. She served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then Chief Judge of the Northern District of Texas. Ann grew up in Dallas, in a family with multiple generations of public school teachers.