Commencement is scheduled for Sunday, May 26, at 10 a.m. on the green between Melrose Hall and the President’s House. Learn more about Commencement weekend.
Prior to her Supreme Court appointment in 2018, Nelson served 12 years as a Multnomah County Circuit judge. Once again, she was a trail blazer — when she began in 2006, she was the lone black judge in a state system boasting nearly 200.
“In addition to her work in the courtroom, she has made extraordinary strides to make the trial bench more receptive to the needs and experiences of diverse and underserved communities in our state,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in a release. “Judge Nelson is a widely respected civil rights champion, whose perspective on the bench moves us closer to our shared vision of justice for all.”
Nelson is originally from Arkansas, where her mother successfully sued a school district to recognize Nelson as a high school valedictorian. She graduated with degrees from the University of Arkansas (English and criminal justice) and the University of Texas Law School. Nelson arrived in Oregon in 1994, working as a public defender before joining a law firm in Portland. A stint at Portland State as the senior attorney/coordinator of student legal and mediation services followed.
A former president of the Multnomah Bar Foundation as well as the Oregon State Bar Foundation Board, Nelson currently serves on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Public Education and is the Oregon delegate to the ABA House of Delegates.
Nelson also maintains a community service commitment in the Portland area, currently volunteering with the Reed College Board of Trustees, Self-Enhancement, Incorporated Board of Directors, the Girl Scouts Beyond Bar Advisory Board and the Oregon Community Foundation Metropolitan Portland Leadership Council.