Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
FAMILY

When Susie Sharp was born, her father was a thirty-year-old failure who had not yet reached bottom. James Merritt Sharp (b. 1877) was the son of a Civil War veteran from New Bethel Township, North Carolina, a yeoman farmer known for his well-tended fields and orchards. A 1930 retrospective newspaper article described the Sharps as “members of a well-known Rockingham County family … good citizens, debt-abhorring and honest … the sort who dignify toil.”1 Jim Sharp grew up in a family that, like many others, existed outside the cash economy, needing money for little beyond sugar and coffee.2 The Sharps were not without broader horizons, however, for Jim Sharp's father was reputedly the only man in the community who subscribed to the Atlanta Constitution.3

Jim Sharp never lost his connection with the land and would be a farmer all his life, no matter what else he did. Nevertheless, despite his rural background—or perhaps because of it—he was motivated from a very young age to get an education. He got it “the hard way, by raising tobacco and 'sending himself' to school.”4 The poverty and turmoil of the post–Civil War years denied him the higher education he longed for, but he did manage to graduate from Whitsett Institute near Gibsonville, North Carolina, where he garnered “all the certificates they offered.”5

At the age of eighteen Jim Sharp was teaching school in Madison Township, not far from the family farm. Having begun in the world of hand-tomouth farming, he had worked his way onto the first rung of a brand-new ladder. Photographs from around this period show an attractive young man with regular features, a firm jaw, prominent ears, a fine profile, and a shock of hair combed to the side. Even as a young man he wore round-rimmed glasses. Showing him in a jacket and tie, regarding the camera with equanimity, his photograph reveals little of the determination within.

There was a story Jim Sharp liked to tell, the story of “Old Frog.” He would

-7-

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Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part1 5
  • Chapter 1 - Family 7
  • Chapter 2 - Formative Years 20
  • Part II - Pursuit of the Law 33
  • Chapter 3 - University of North Carolina School of Law 35
  • Chapter 4 - False Start 55
  • Chapter 5 - Sharp & Sharp 80
  • Chapter 6 - Politics and Public Life 99
  • Part III - Superior Court (1949–1962) 127
  • Chapter 7 - Appointment to Superior Court 129
  • Chapter 8 - Judge Sharp, Presiding 146
  • Chapter 9 - Ambition 167
  • Chapter 10 - Theory and Practice 184
  • Chapter 11 - The Road to the Supreme Court 209
  • Part IV - North Carolina 247
  • Chapter 12 - Taking the Veil 249
  • Chapter 13 - Opinions 274
  • Chapter 14 - Federal Job Proposals 298
  • Chapter 15 - Out of Court 319
  • Chapter 16 - Chief Justice Election 336
  • Chapter 17 - Chief Justice 367
  • Chapter 18 - Equal Rights Amendment 389
  • Chapter 19 - Stepping off the Stage 406
  • Epilogue 431
  • A Note on Sources 439
  • Notes 441
  • Selected Bibliography 521
  • Acknowledgments 531
  • Index 533
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