Born in Florence, South Carolina, Timmons-Goodson, the daughter of a U.S. Army officer, was raised on military bases in the United States and Europe. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning an undergraduate degree in speech in 1976 and a law degree in 1979.
She worked as a prosecutor and as a private attorney in Fayetteville until she was named a District Court judge in 1984; Timmons-Goodson was subsequently elected as a Democrat to four-year terms as a district judge in 1986, 1990, and 1994. In 1997, she was appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. She retired from that court in late 2005.
On January 19, 2006, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley appointed Judge Timmons-Goodson to the North Carolina Supreme Court to take the place of Associate Justice Sarah Parker. In February 2006, she became the first African American woman to sit on the Court. She was elected by the voters to remain on the Court in November 2006, defeating Judge Eric Levinson. Timmons-Goodson made it known in November 2012 that she would resign her seat before the end of the year. Court of Appeals Judge Cheri Beasley was appointed to fill her seat.
Justice Timmons-Goodson is married and has two sons.
She delivered the commencement address for Johnson C. Smith University on May 6, 2007.