FEDERAL JOB PROPOSALS
Whatever the frustrations of her job, Justice Sharp found that she had to fight a constant battle to keep from getting “promoted” to the federal bench, either the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court. Although she was ambivalent at best about the idea, she was a serious candidate for the highest court in the land for almost two decades prior to Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment in 1981. Her consideration at every vacancy reflected her national standing.
She had scarcely gotten settled in her new position on North Carolina's highest court when Governor Terry Sanford, in effect, offered her the opportunity to be the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. Had the timing been slightly different, it is likely that, as Sanford believed, he “could have probably put her on the Supreme Court of the United States” while John Kennedy was president.1
As a result of his critical role in Kennedy's election, Sanford was in a position to harvest a good deal of political gratitude from the new administration. He would later say that when Kennedy became president, he had “complete access” to the White House.2 Sanford could claim credit for Kennedy's appointment of former North Carolina governor Luther Hodges as secretary of commerce, and he even secured the president as UNC's University Day speaker on October 12, 1961.3 Among other benefits to North Carolina, Sanford's influence with Kennedy resulted in the location of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency facilities in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.4
The first U.S. Supreme Court vacancy under Kennedy opened up scarcely two weeks after Susie Sharp took her seat on North Carolina's highest court, and the president filled it swiftly. Justice Charles E. Whittaker retired on March 31, 1962. His replacement, Justice Byron R. White, took his oath of office on April 16, 1962. In August 1962 Justice Felix Frankfurter, who had