Earning the privilege of serving

March 17, 2009

She reviews requests for search warrants and other matters. “At the county court level it’s a lot of volume, and you have to make sure you keep up with it,” she said.

A native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Richardson moved to the U.S. as a youngster with her family. She and her sister were raised by their father, who taught ethnomusicology in the College of Music at Florida State University and served as the director of the Center for African-American Culture.

To say education was stressed in her childhood would be an understatement. She recalled the lessons about the importance of school and why even adults need to “stay on the learning curve.”

A law graduate of FSU, she spent 17 years as a staff attorney for the Florida Education Association, representing teachers from school districts and universities. She also donated countless hours of pro bono legal advice to indigent clients, earning recognition for her service from her colleagues in the second judicial circuit of Florida.

“She is one of the leaders in this community who consistently makes positive things happen for others and makes Tallahassee/Leon County a better place to live,” said her husband, former state legislator Curtis Richardson, in nominating her as one of the 25 Women You Need to Know.

She was the first African-American to head the Tallahassee Women Lawyers and later the first African-American woman to lead the Tallahassee Bar Association. She has volunteered with such local nonprofits as the Legal Aid Society, FSU Foundation, Sickle Cell Foundation and others.

Collectively, these activities have shown her the humanity in everyone, Richardson said. People have more in common than they realize.

And regardless of their station in life — poor, homeless, elderly or disabled — each individual must have access to the legal system. The real value of that system is reflected “in how we represent the least among us,” she said. “That’s very important to me.”