A North Carolina Highway Historical Marker soon will recognize the first woman chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.
The marker commemorating the life of Susie Marshall Sharp will be placed in Reidsville, N.C., near the site of her residence Friday, Sept. 29.
Sharp, born in Rocky Mount, N.C., on July 7, 1907, was a trailblazer for women interested in the practice of law in North Carolina. After attending Women’s College (now UNC-Greensboro) for two years, she entered law school at the University of North Carolina in 1926 and was the only woman in her class. Sharp passed the bar exam in 1928 before receiving her LL.B. from UNC the following year. Sharp then joined her father’s Reidsville law firm where she practiced for 20 years. During this time, she became city attorney for Reidsville in 1939, becoming the first woman in state history to be appointed to this role.
Sharp also was an ardent Democrat fueled by her father’s successful campaigns for the state senate. She nurtured her ties with Democratic party leaders on the local and state levels, campaigning ardently for W. Kerr Scott for governor in 1948 and serving as his campaign manager in heavily Democratic (at the time) Rockingham County. After Scott won the governor’s race, he appointed Sharp as a Superior Court judge in 1949.
During her years as a Superior Court judge, Sharp conducted court in two-thirds of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Later, Sharp was a Supreme Court justice from 1962-79 and was elected Chief Justice in 1974, the first woman to be elected chief justice of any state supreme court in the United States. Upon her mandatory retirement in 1979 at age 72, and having received many accolades and honorary degrees over the years, Justice Sharp stepped down from the Supreme Court.
Sharp faded from public view as her health declined, and on March 1, 1996, she died at her Raleigh home at the age of 89. Following a funeral at Main Street Methodist Church in Reidsville, Justice Sharp was buried alongside other family members in nearby Greenview Cemetery.
The marker for Sharp will be dedicated at the corner of Lindsey and Main streets in Reidsville at 3:30 p.m. A panel discussion “Susie Sharp on the Supreme Court,” will follow the ceremony at 4:45 p.m.
For more information about the historical marker and the event, please visit https://ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?MarkerId=J-125.
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.
The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the North Carolina Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.