Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
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

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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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