Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
POLITICS AND PUBLIC LIFE

The very idea of a woman judge was almost incomprehensible in 1949, when the vast majority of United States citizens had never seen a female attorney, let alone a female judge. Certainly the citizens of North Carolina had never seen a woman presiding over a courtroom. Unlike a handful of other states, North Carolina did not even have any female justices of the peace or judges of such lesser courts as those with jurisdiction over municipal, county, probate, juvenile, or domestic relations matters. The court reporter or stenographer might be a woman, but a female clerk of court was rare indeed. It had been only three years since North Carolina women acquired the right to serve on a jury, something that in general they remained reluctant to do.

Judgeships were inextricably intertwined with politics, another area in which women were scarce. Then, as now, regular superior court judges were elected, although in practice most judges were initially appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy. Even more political, however, were the special superior court judgeships, appointed by the governor, who had the authority to appoint eight. Unlike regular judges, special judges were not tied strictly to one geographical section but served statewide. Created by the General Assembly in an effort to alleviate chronic courtroom backlogs without the difficulties inherent in redistricting, special judgeships inevitably had become coveted patronage plums.

Old-time politics, not so pure and not so simple, put Susie Sharp on the bench, a position she claimed never to have pursued. Even if the idea had crossed her mind—and it had—there were several reasons why it was not a good career move. Among other considerations, she had deep concerns about her father's health and his ability to carry Sharp & Sharp without her. Moreover, a quick glance around her could provide plenty of reasons not to view a judgeship as a realistic goal, the most persuasive being the resounding absence of women on the bench. But she was irrefutably up to her eyebrows

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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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