JUDGE SHARP, PRESIDING
The new judge received a variety of advice as she awaited the assignment of her first term of court. Chief Justice Stacy counseled her to be careful of her sentencing power. “A new knife is very keen. It will cut deeply without you knowing,” he warned. “You watch your sentencing power.”1 Judge Allen Gwyn passed along an admonition against arrogance, in the form of a quotation from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure that his mother had given him when he took the oath of office.2 The old reprobate P. W. Glidewell Sr. cautioned her against “the blandishments of the Bar,” saying, “You are going to have more eyes made at you than any other gal in North Carolina ever did. You be careful.”3 But it was her father's words to her that she would quote most often in the years to come, and which served as her touchstone. The sum total of his advice to her was, “Sue, plow a straight furrow and remember you are the boss.”
Albemarle, North Carolina, the county seat of Stanly County, was to have the honor of the first court presided over by a woman judge, in the term beginning July 11, 1949. As a special judge assigned wherever the need might arise, Judge Sharp was to fill in for her close friend and colleague, Judge Gwyn, who had planned to be out of the state that week. Newspapers all across the state heralded the history-making assignment. The Saturday before court was to open on Monday, the new judge called the clerk of court to find out what was on the docket (a light schedule: two manslaughters, some divorces) and told him she would be in court on Monday. Sometime between that phone call and Monday morning, Judge Gwyn changed his plans and decided to go to Albemarle after all.4 No one alerted the newspapers.
The result was a public relations disaster for Judge Sharp.
Farmers from all over the county had begun to arrive at the courthouse as early as seven thirty Monday morning, wearing their Sunday best, “their faces freshly shaven.”5 Nearly all the members of the Stanly County bar had turned