Shirley Nash Weber, the current Secretary of State of California, was born on September 20, 1948, in Hope, Arkansas, as one of eight children to David Nash, a semi-literate sharecropper and later steel mill worker, and Mildred Nash, a homemaker. Her family fled to California after her father disagreed with a white farmer and was threatened by a white lynch mob.
Weber was raised in South Los Angeles. She graduated first in her high school class and went on to the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned bachelor’s, master’s, and, at the age of 26, a Ph.D. in communications with a dissertation on Marcus Garvey.
Weber was hired to teach at San Diego State University in 1972 after previously teaching at Los Angeles City College and California State University, Los Angeles. She was an award-winning teacher, advisor to black faculty and staff, and chairperson of the Department of Africana Studies for the majority of its existence before becoming President of the National Council for Black Studies, the leading organization promoting Black Studies in higher education, and Executive Director of San Diego’s Association of African American Educators.
She was a captivating and powerful public speaker who was frequently asked to deliver keynote addresses at national gatherings.
Weber’s high profile at the university and in the city aided her political ascension. She was elected to the San Diego School Board twice and served as its president both times. She also served as chair of the San Diego Citizens’ Equal Opportunity Commission and ran unsuccessfully for City Council and County Board of Supervisors seats.
After retiring from San Diego State University in 2010, Weber ran as a Democrat in the 79th District and was elected to the California State Assembly in 2012, becoming the state legislature’s first African American representative from San Diego County.
Weber was re-elected to the California State Assembly in 2014, 2016, and 2020, and served on the Assembly Budget Committee and the Committee on Higher Education. She advocated for police reform, a measure to combat hate crimes, challenged teacher tenure and evaluation criteria, proposed a California State University campus in Chula Vista, investigated reparations for slavery, attempted to reinstate affirmative action in the public sector, was a delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and was one of California’s Presidential Electors in 2016 and 2020.
With the appointment of Alex Padilla to the United States Senate, California Governor Gavin Newsom chose Weber, who was chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLCB) at the time, to fill the vacant position of California Secretary of State. The announcement took place on December 22, 2020. On January 29, 2021, the California State Senate confirmed her appointment.
Daniel Weber, an attorney and administrative judge whom she met at UCLA, died in 2002. Their marriage resulted in two children: a son, Akil Khalfani Weber, and a daughter, Akilah Faizah Weber, a medical doctor who will take over as the 79th District representative in the California State Assembly in April 2021.