While holding court as a Superior Court judge in Burke County, North Carolina, county commissioners refused, upon learning of her assignment to their county, to modify the only bathroom facilities in the judge's chambers; a sink and a urinal that hung on the wall. Judge Sharp opened court on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. and ordered the sheriff to "invite" the county commissioners over to the courthouse. By 11:00, the courthouse was aflutter with the scurrying about of plumbers, carpenters, and electricians, while the county commissioners narrowly avoided a few nights' repose in the county jail.
Judge Sharp was re-appointed by successive governors, and in 1962, Governor Terry Sanford made Sharp the first female Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Sharp was elected by the people that November and again in November 1966 to a full eight-year term. In 1974, voters gave her 74 percent of the vote to elect her Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, succeeding her close friend, Chief Justice William H. Bobbitt.
Time, in its January 6, 1976 cover story, named Sharp one of the 12 "women of the year" for 1975. In so doing, Time called her a "trail blazer" with a "reputation as both a compassionate jurist and an incisive legal scholar".
Senator Sam Ervin, a fellow Democrat, recommended to President Richard Nixon that he appoint her to the United States Supreme Court. Nixon declined the advice, obviously, and there would not be a woman appointed to the Court until 1981.
During Justice Sharp's 17-year tenure on the Supreme Court, she wrote 459 majority opinions, 124 concurring opinions, and 45 dissenting opinions.
Justice Sharp was also the aunt of Susie Sharp Newsom Lynch, subject of the book "Bitter Blood" by Jerry Bledsoe. The book details the bitter child custody dispute between Lynch and her ex-husband, which preceded the brutal murders of Lynch's mother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother, father, and grandmother. It has been proven that Lynch's first cousin, lover, and nephew of Justice Sharp, murdered Lynch's in-laws in Kentucky. It is also highly suspected that he murdered Lynch's parents and grandmother. Lynch's participation in the murders was suspected by many but never proven. She and her cousin blew themselves up during a police chase when authorities began closing in on them as suspects.