Growing up, Natasha Wilson always envisioned “many lives,” particularly living the life of Lucinda Walsh, the straightforward business woman who starred in of one her great-grandmother’s favorite soap operas “As the World Turns.”
“We spent summers with my granny and she watched her ‘stories.’ I remember Lucinda Walsh being a hard-working business woman who fiercely loved, protected and took care of her family,” Wilson said. “Those were qualities I admired. I’m not sure exactly what Lucinda Walsh’s business was, but I knew I wanted to exhibit those same qualities in whatever career path I chose and life in general.”
“I was always a voracious reader with a great imagination,” Wilson said. “So I always envisioned ‘many lives’ as my worldview expanded through the lens of whatever magical person, place, and/or thing I read about.”
Wilson, who is a 1992 graduate of The W with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, has had the opportunity to view the world through a few different lenses.
Her first job after graduation was at her alma mater as an admissions counselor. “I loved it. There was nothing more rewarding than helping students achieve their educational goal, particularly for students who were becoming the first in their families to attend college.”
Wilson went on to graduate school at The University of Southern Mississippi and received a master’s degree in mass communication. While at USM, she worked at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg before taking a job as a producer at WLBT-TV in Jackson. In Jackson, Wilson was active in a number of her church’s ministries, including the prison ministry.
“It was there, in about 1998, that I worked with a number of attorneys from my church in outreach to indigent Mississippians who, for whatever reason, were arrested, could not afford bail and remained jailed until their family members were able to afford an attorney to help them reach their first court appearance.
Wilson explained that established within the Bill of Rights is the idea that no one’s liberty, life or property can ever be taken away in the criminal justice system without the process being fair.
“Since the adoption of the Sixth Amendment to our federal Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court has clarified that every indigent person who is accused in any federal or state court of a crime for which they could potentially lose their liberty must receive effective assistance of counsel at all critical stages of the legal process. At that time, and still today, the state of Mississippi does not have a statewide public defender system,” she explained.
Witnessing this inequity firsthand drove Wilson to pursue a career in law.
At Greenberg Traurig, Wilson serves as co-chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s Complex Employment Litigation & Trials group and co-chair of the Atlanta Labor & Employment Practice group. Her practice focuses on labor and employment law, representing and consulting with companies and their management in all aspects of employment law, from prevention and compliance issues to arbitration and litigation.
“I work with a very diverse group of individuals. Even though the legal profession is not representative of the community in which we work, my team members are diverse across gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation,” she said.
Diversity in the legal field remains a challenge—one that Wilson is up for. “Nothing helps you succeed more than being the best prepared person in the room,” said Wilson, who is in her 11th year with the firm.
A partner at Greenberg Traurig, Wilson explained that African-American women are only 0.6 percent of equity partners at predominately white law firms and only 1.6 percent of all lawyers.
“As a result, I am often mistaken for the court reporter, a courtroom staffer, or in some cases, the defendant, depending on what city and state I am in that day...as a result, I am often underestimated and I use this to my advantage. I may not always be the smartest person in the room, but I will certainly be the most prepared. In so doing, I am already miles ahead of my competition,” she added.
Wilson said The W laid the groundwork for the success she is experiencing today. “At every step of the way throughout my academic career at The W, I had the great fortune of being mentored and counseled by amazing women and men who had a vested interest in my success,” she said.
Chrystal Walker Newman, former dean of students and multicultural affairs; Brenda Jones, an administrator at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science; William “Wild Bill” Sorrels, a late former journalism professor; and Dr. Clyda Stokes Rent, former President of The W, were just a few mentors she recollected.
“In those instances where I faced adversity, whether in the classroom setting, on campus, or ‘out there’ in the world, I knew I could rely on any of these individuals to be a sounding board to guide me,” she said.
While Wilson’s former and current roles have often put her in the spotlight, she views herself as anti-social and finds her happy place among family and her fur babies, Nala (a terrier mix) and Simba (a long-hair chihuahua).
“On a personal level, my greatest joy is spending time with family. Each week, I am blessed to cook Sunday dinner for my sisters, niece and nephews. Every Sunday growing up, we would all gather at my granny’s house after church for Sunday dinner.
“It was like Christmas dinner every week and I loved the feeling of joy and peace those meals gave me. At a young age, I started making the cornbread for those meals and progressed to bigger dishes. But what I remember most is the time spent in that kitchen with my granny and my great aunt, talking, laughing, sharing stories and hopes for the future. Now, I am sharing that Sunday tradition as the matriarch with my niece and nephews.” A life similarly portrayed by Lucinda Walsh.
Her parents, siblings and trusted friends also have served as her “Executive Committee,” her greatest allies.
“My parents have always believed I could do and achieve anything. They always nudge me to push myself outside my comfort zone.”