LWI Lives - February 2021
Beverly Duréus: Champion of Firsts DOWNLOAD PDFFebruary 1, 2021
Beverly Duréus: Champion of Firsts
Beverly Caro Duréus is a warm, funny person with a humble demeanor, and she has enough achievements, accolades, and “firsts” to fill two résumés. She is now working on her third résumé, and this probably won’t be her last act, either.
Beverly was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, the youngest of five children in “a well-respected family of over-achievers.” Her family had strong roots in Kansas, where her mother had a career in nursing and her father worked for the Ralston Purina Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Her maternal grandmother was an educator, and the family members are descendants of the first African-American student to attend the University of Kansas.
True to family tradition, Beverly excelled at her magnet high school for the arts and sciences, where she was class secretary. She loved being a performer and dreamed of a career in theater. But after high school, when she enrolled at Drake University in Iowa, her parents encouraged her to pursue something other than theater. Beverly knew immediately what it should be. She had known since third grade that she wanted to be a trial lawyer. “It was just in me,” she says.
Naturally then, after finishing college she went to law school. Despite initially planning to attend an elite eastern law school—or at least, to transfer there after one year—she ultimately attended law school at a place she loved: Drake. That decision made her happy and would pay dividends later. At Drake Law, Beverly was one of only four Black students in her entering class of 186, and she carried on the family tradition of high achievement: She was a member of the Dean’s list, the first African-American president of the moot court board, an officer in the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity, a member of the school’s national and mid-west moot court teams, and graduated as a member of the Order of the Barristers.
After clerking at the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and interning for Chief Judge William Stuart of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Beverly ultimately pursued a legal career in Dallas, Texas. “I wanted to get away from the ice and snow,” she says. From among several offers, she chose the law firm of Gardere & Wynne (later Gardere Wynne Sewell and which has now merged into Foley & Lardner). Beverly was the first African-American lawyer the firm had ever hired.
At the firm, Beverly worked in a trial practice, primarily on the defense side, and was on the path to partnership when Drake University School of Law reached out to her and offered her the chance to teach Evidence as well as first-year Legal Writing and Civil Procedure for one year. Of course, she wanted to embrace this opportunity, which would make her Drake Law’s first full-time African-American faculty member, but she didn’t want to sacrifice her successful legal career and the potential for partnership. What she needed was a leave of absence from the firm. Gardere & Wynne had never given an attorney a one-year leave. But now it gave one to Beverly—the first leave of absence ever granted to a firm associate.
After a year in academia, which she loved, she began to wonder if the “crazy hours” she was working at a large law firm were what she really wanted. She decided to leave Gardere & Wynne and join Chapman & Reese, a defense-oriented litigation boutique in Dallas. There, true to form, she became the firm’s first female shareholder. She also became a visible leader in the J.L. Turner Legal Association, a member of the Dallas Bar Association, and president of the Dallas Black Women’s Bar.
That’s a pretty good résumé right there: college, law school, successful lawyer, law-firm share-holder, and bar leader. But hold on.
In 1994, something momentous happened that changed Beverly’s life, and it began with another achievement on the horizon. She was placed on the short list for a judicial appointment by Texas Governor Ann Richards. That appointment would have made her the first African-American female state district court (non-family law) civil trial judge in Dallas.
But one day, as she contemplated the opportunities before her and the future possibilities, “God spoke to me,” she says, “and I knew I had to take a different path.” Despite naysaying from her friends, she withdrew her name as a potential judicial nominee and committed herself to pursuing Christian ministry. That path has shaped Beverly’s life ever since, leading to more achievement, more opportunities, and also to a family. And one more thing: After her decision to enter the minis-try, Beverly was surprised and thrilled to learn that some of her maternal ancestors had come to North America not as slaves but as Christian missionaries from Madagascar. It is a point of deep meaning and pride for her.
So she pivoted—and started a second résumé. She earned a master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, where she met and worked with Rev. Edsel Duréus, who was also pursuing a master’s degree in theology and who regularly engaged in short-term mission trips, which Beverly also joined. Their relationship grew, and Edsel and Beverly eventually married.
Beverly went on to earn her Doctor of Ministry from the Perkins School of Theology at SMU in Dallas (hence her official designation: Beverly Caro Duréus, Esq., Th.M., D.Min.). Edsel holds a doctorate from DTS as well, and they are both ordained ministers. Beverly is the first female to become an ordained pastor in a Bible Fellow-ship Church. The Duréuses have been operating their church and ministry for the last 16 years in Cedar Hill, Texas—located in southwest Dallas County.
While pursuing her advanced degrees and committing herself to ministry, Beverly also re-entered legal academia as a legal-writing teacher at SMU Dedman School of Law. As a full-time Clinical Professor of Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy, she teaches two sections of Legal Research, Writing and Advocacy, and she co-teaches the school’s Federal Judicial Externship Class with the Honorable A. Joe Fish, Senior Judge for the Northern District of Texas. She loves teaching, loves her students, and believes that her role is to “cause them to learn.” And, she admits, recalling her high school days as a performer, “I’m a bit dramatic and corny in the class-room, and we laugh a lot. Law school is tense enough, so I try to make it fun and to keep my students encouraged.”
She has now been teaching legal writing for 20 years, and for the 2019-20 academic year, she was a nominee for the SMU Provost’s Teacher of the Year Award. In addition to teaching, she serves others, of course. She’s faculty advisor to the Christian Legal Society and the Black Law Students Association. (I met Beverly as the unflappable co-coordinator of SMU’s One-Day Workshop in 2019.)
And although SMU does not require legal-writing faculty to publish scholarship, she does it any-way, focusing on the intersection of law and theology. A recent publication is Shades of Theology in Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship: A Tribute Honoring the Memory of Professor Joseph W. McKnight, 71 SMU L. Rev. 339 (2018).
Beverly and Edsel have a son, Edsel Duréus II, who did “a COVID-style high school graduation” in 2020. He, like his mother, is a high achiever, lettering in track and being selected for National Honor Society as well as earning the title of “Most Charming Male Senior.” He is now a fresh-man at Oral Roberts University and dreams of becoming an attorney. Beverly and her family love to travel and have visited Africa and the Caribbean, combining much of their travel with Christian ministry.
Along with her academic career and her family, Beverly works as the pastor of women’s and children’s ministries and overseas Christian education at her church, which continues operating despite having no onsite meetings since March 2020 due to Covid-19. She also operates Katallasso (Greek for “reconciliation”) Enterprises™ which includes Katallasso Ministries International™ and Katallasso Alternative Dispute Resolutions™. K-ADR™ helps parties resolve disputes according to Biblical principles. A woman of great faith, she credits Jesus Christ for her success. And yes, she also preaches a good sermon.
It’s a remarkable second résumé.
But wait. There’s more. Beverly is the co-author of Holiday Island, a delightful children's book, and most recently was a contributing author for Lessons from Successful African American Lawyers, edited by Evangeline V. Mitchell, Esq. Both are available on Amazon. Looks like her third résumé will be just as illustrious as the first two!
You can contact Beverly at email@example.com and visit her faculty profile page at https://www.smu.edu/Law/Faculty/Profiles/Dureus-Beverly-C.