At her swearing-in ceremony, Chief Justice Susie Marshall Sharp devoted her first official remarks largely to a tribute to retiring chief justice Bobbitt and associate justice Higgins, lamenting the mandatory retirement law that was forcing them of the court. The state would be the poorer for their absence, she said, but—referring to her own age-limited term—she quipped that “the law that impoverished the state in 1974 may very well save it in 1979.”
The ceremony took only fifteen minutes, but it came nearly half a century after the pudgy young Susie Sharp had launched her unprecedented career when she entered law school at UNC. Twenty years as a practicing lawyer, thirteen as a superior court judge, and another thirteen on the state supreme court had earned her this day, January2, 1975, when she was sworn in as chief justice. She was sixty-seven years old. The grand and familiar courtroom of the supreme court was standing-room-only, with the crowd spilling out the tall doors into the hallway. Although Republican governor Holshouser did not attend, dignitaries included (Democratic) Lieutenant Governor James B. Hunt, Attorney General Rufus Edmisten, and members of the court of appeals and the council of state. Chief Justice Sharp could look out into the audience and see all but one of her brothers and sisters along with their families, including lots of nieces and nephews. She could recognize childhood friends from Reidsville like Janie Sands Smith and Margaret Fillman Chaney; Norwood Robinson, who had come to Reidsville to practice law with Jim Sharp so many years ago; and Judge Allen Gwyn's widow, Janie. Judge Sharp's law school chums Bill Covington, Hugh “Cicero” Lobdell, and Hugh Campbell, now a judge, were there. Breck, who had been living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for a number of years, had come with his daughter Jean. John Kesler attended with his daughter Frances Sue.
Judge Sharp's parents, Jim and Annie Blackwell Sharp, were certainly present in spirit if not in body. In fact, the room was full of ghosts and memo-