Nancy Coats-Ashley was born in Ohio. She moved with her family to Phoenix, Arizona when she was eight years old and graduated from West Phoenix High School. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. She then completed two years of law school at the University of Arizona and finished her law degree at the University of Oklahoma.
Coats-Ashley worked as a law clerk for a federal judge until 1972 when she was hired as the first female lawyer for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in the five state area consisting of Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1982 she began working in Washington, D.C. for AT&T. She returned to Oklahoma in 1987 to continue working with Southwestern Bell and retired in 1994.
In 1995 Coats-Ashley was sworn in as District Court Judge for Oklahoma County. She served ten years on the bench until her retirement in 2004. During this time she started the Mental Health Court of Oklahoma County, making Oklahoma among the first states to have such a court and the first in the Southwest. There are now a number of mental health courts across Oklahoma.
Coats-Ashley served as President of the Oklahoma Federal Bar Association, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the William J. Holloway Jr. American Inn of Court. She is a Trustee of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, was appointed by Governor Brad Henry to serve as a member of the Oklahoma Forensic Review Board, is in a book club and tutors at an Oklahoma City middle school.
Coats-Ashley is the recipient of the OBA Judicial Excellence Award and the Mona Lambird Spotlight Award. She was inducted in the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005.
(Bio current as of 2009)