Dorothy B. Austell was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and raised in Shelby, North Carolina. She completed a two-year administration program at nearby Gardner-Webb College and became the assistant comptroller for the Cleveland County school system.
In May 1943, Senator Clyde R. Hoey of North Carolina approached Austell about a top secret assignment in the Women's Army Corps, where she would perform undercover intelligence work against saboteurs in the armed forces. She agreed and enlisted in June 1943, and was sent to Daytona Beach, Florida, for basic training and administration school. She was then sent to Baer Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois, during the next three years. She was discharged as a first lieutenant on 1 July 1946.
Austell returned to her job as assistant comptroller, but later became an insurance agent for Pilot Life Insurance Company of Greensboro, North Carolina, where she was the first woman in the nation to make top agent. She later founded her own insurance agency, Dorothy Austell, Randall & Associates, in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1998, Austell received "The Order of the Long Leaf Pine",the Distinguished Women of North Carolina Award for outstanding level of achievement. She died in Raleigh on 11 August, 2009.