Elsie Austin

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Dr. Elsie Austin, Knight of Baha'u'llah for Morocco. Reproduced with permission of the Bahai International Community.

Elsie Austin was an attorney and the first African American woman to receive a law degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Austin was born in 1908 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mother taught Household Science at the Tuskegee Institute. Her father served as Commandant of Men at this same institution. Elsie Austin and her family later moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where her mother taught at the Stowe School and her father worked in the insurance business.

Elsie Austin received most of her education in the public schools of Cincinnati. After graduating from high school in 1924, she enrolled in the University of Cincinnati. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1928 and her law degree in 1930, after attending one year of law school at the University of Colorado. While attending law school she worked on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Law Review and of the Cincinnati Law Review.

After receiving her law degree, Austin was appointed as an assistant to the Attorney General of Ohio. She was the first African-American woman to serve as an assistant to the Attorney General of any state. Austin later worked in the legal divisions of several federal government agencies. After retiring from government service, she spent nearly a decade in Africa, working with the United States Information Agency. She helped found and operate several educational and cultural programs for the people of Africa.

Austin was involved in several other civic and community activities. She was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University, in Xenia, Ohio, in 1934. She also was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Columbus, Ohio.

Elsie Austin died in October 2004.


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