In the 1960’s, Vi at La Jolla Village resident Betty Boone wasn’t trying to change the world – she was just trying to be herself. For Boone, that meant working, attending law school, and being a wife and mother – not exactly the standard for women at the time.
“I knew that I wanted to have a career, and that that was a radical thing back then!” Boone said. “Women were supposed to stay home and take care of the kids while the men went to work. Unless you were a teacher or a nurse — that was ok. But women going to law school, was not normal.”
A Distinguished Career Began with a Childhood Dream
Unusual in her day, but considered a trailblazer by today’s standards, Betty Boone was the second woman to graduate from the University of San Diego School of Law, and was a charter member of the Lawyer’s Club of San Diego. In 2013 she was inducted into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame for her efforts to increase the hiring of female attorneys in San Diego in the 1960’s.
Her dream began in 7th grade when a teacher asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. “For some reason that I can’t explain, I said that I’d like to be a lawyer,” she said. “I had never even met a lawyer, and certainly not any women who were lawyers. But I knew what they did from watching the movies. Some people went to the movies and said they’d like to be a singer, but I wanted to be a lawyer.”
But the road to becoming an attorney wouldn’t be an easy one. After working her way through college, Boone graduated in May 1950 with her degree from Centenary College, in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. But just one month later, the Korean War began, and Betty’s dream of becoming a lawyer went on hold for nine years.
While her career dreams were on the back burner, Betty’s life went on. In late 1950 she married her high school sweetheart, Jim Boone, and became a military wife. She accompanied Jim to basic training in San Antonio, then to Syracuse University, where Jim became fluent in Russian. Together the Boones and their son Evan would be stationed abroad in England and Germany. It would be 1956 before the Boones returned to civilian life, settling in Fort Worth, Texas with their new addition: their second son Karsten.
In 1959, Jim accepted a job with Solar Aircraft that took the young family to San Diego, a town that would quickly become their home.
A Move to San Diego Opened New Doors
Once the Boones two children were school age, Betty was able to get her own career back on track.
“I went to San Diego State University to enroll in a Master’s program, and while I was there I just happened to hear someone mention that there was a law school at USD. So I took the kids back home, called up the law school and found out they were enrolling that night!” At last she enrolled in law school at the University of San Diego.
For the next five years, Betty worked full time as legal secretary while attending law school at night. “I started with 78 classmates, all men except me. By midterm we were down to 28. My classmates didn’t realize what it would take to go to law school and also work.” In 1964, she became the second woman to graduate from USD School of Law.
The First Female Attorney in the Office of County Counsel
After graduating from law school, her biggest challenge was finding a job. At the time, the government offices in San Diego were not hiring female attorneys; neither were private law firms. “When I tried to get a job and they told me they weren’t hiring women, I knew then that I was a pioneer.” But despite the obstacle, Boone got a job.
As the first female attorney in the Office of the San Diego County Counsel, Boone specialized in Administrative Law and School Law; providing legal counsel to school boards and school administrators.
When she left the Office of County Counsel in 1981, there were ten female attorneys employed in the office. She continued her career as an Independent Hearing Officer for both the city and county of San Diego.
A New Chapter at Vi at La Jolla
Today Betty resides at Vi at La Jolla Village, where there are enough female attorneys to gather for dinner once a month and share stories of their incredible journeys. She also spends time as the community’s Chair of the Activities Committee, and outside of Vi she volunteers with her church, swims regularly and still actively participates with the Lawyer’s Club of San Diego.