Ann Beeson is the Southern Poverty Law Center’s chief program officer, where she oversees programs to dismantle white supremacy, advance learning for justice, and preserve and continue the legacy of the civil rights movement. An experienced civil rights lawyer, nonprofit CEO and philanthropy executive, Beeson has transformed institutions and embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to promote social change.
Before joining the SPLC, she served as CEO of Every Texan, the leading social justice think tank and public policy organization in Texas, which advocates for accessible and equitable health care, education, quality jobs and financial security. Beeson was previously the executive director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations. She developed the distribution strategy for $150 million in annual grants 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 its National Legal Department.
Beeson 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 The American Lawyer, and one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by The National Law Journal.
Beeson 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.
Beeson is a strong believer in the role that culture, art and education play in advancing social change. She worked with celebrated theater 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, Beeson received 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 Judge Barefoot Sanders of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Beeson grew up in Dallas in a family with multiple generations of public school teachers.