Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
APPOINTMENT TO SUPERIOR COURT

Susie Sharp's appointment as the first woman judge in North Carolina owed as much to a quirky gubernatorial election in which the courthouse crowd backed the losing candidate as it did to her exceptional qualifications. That the winner of that election, William Kerr Scott, was a showman and a populist who loved nothing better than shaking up the establishment certainly was a factor in her appointment to the bench. Perhaps equally as important was her alliance with her mentor and her father's old nemesis, Allen H. Gwyn. The explanation for her success that she herself most often cited—and perhaps believed—was that she simply was the right person in the right place at the right time. There was some truth to this theory, but as always the full truth was a bit more complicated.

Kerr Scott was not the first governor to think about putting her on the bench. According to her old friend, To m Bost, the well-connected journalist who years ago had wired her advance notice that she had passed the bar, Susie Sharp had almost gotten appointed as a special superior court judge five years earlier, during the Cherry administration.1 In his regular column, Bost divulged that, although it was “not generally, “or” even limitedly known,” Governor Cherry had seriously considered naming Susie Sharp to the bench but had been dissuaded by several factors, including his recognition that women were not yet widely accepted in high public office and his now-quaint apprehension that such an appointment would be viewed, at a time when his popularity was low, as pandering to a particular segment of the voting population. Despite his political indebtedness to Susie Sharp as one of his campaign managers, and despite his experience as a state Democratic chairman working with some women with impressive political abilities, Cherry—unlike Kerr Scott—was no iconoclast.

In his article, Bost characterized Susie Sharp as “a good politician” and a “politico,” rather than as a good attorney (although he surely believed her to

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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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