ROCKINGHAM — North Carolina Superior Court Judge Tanya Wallace has served in the field of law for quite some time, and come Aug. 1, that field will be down one less professional.
Wallace announced Thursday morning that she will be officially retiring, effective July 31.
Her journey to this point began at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late ’70s and early ’80s when Wallace attended law school as a Tar Heel, graduating in 1980. After a year as an associate in a private practice in the 30th district west of Asheville, she moved back to the Sandhills area. The judge said she loved it, but her husband Lee got a Master’s degree, and the two made their way to Rockingham.
Three years later, a judge position opened up in the district that included Richmond, Anson, Scotland, Stanly, Union, Moore and Hoke counties, and Wallace was appointed by then-North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin.
In 2008, she ran for a Superior Court position, winning the election — a job she’s held ever since Jan. 1, 2009.
Wallace received 42,617 votes in the 2016 election, running unopposed. Those were the most votes of any District 16A Superior Court judge on the ballot. Her term was supposed to end in 2024, but Gov. Roy Cooper will be charged with appointing her new replacement.
“I’ve had all the years I need to retire with benefits for some time. It’s not as enjoyable with age,” Wallace said when asked why she’s retiring now. “I’ve done everything I can do at this level, at the district court level. I feel like it’s just time now. I have a grandbaby and some other interests so hopefully my time in retirement will be an enjoyable as my time on the bench.”
One of those things she’s accomplished along the way included becoming the first mother to swear in a daughter — Chevonne Wallace — as a District Court judge, making history in the process.
Although Wallace’s position as N.C. Superior Court Judge has lasted more than a decade and her career more than three, it wasn’t always easy, she said.
“When I was younger, frankly, the jobs for females were generally either teacher or nurse. I knew I couldn’t give anybody an inoculation,” said Wallace. “When in college, I loved American history. My sophomore year, my professor said, ‘All you history majors are gonna end up working at McDonald’s.’ So I taught history, and I got the degree.
“I really think being a teacher is a calling, and at that point, I was not ready to be a teacher at that point in my life,” she went on to say. “I was fortunate enough that my grades allowed me to go to law school. I probably wondered what in the world I was doing there. It was very challenging, but it all worked out fine in the end.”
As a Superior Court Judge, Wallace’s duties for the last 10 years have included handling all civil matters that are more than $25,000 in contest and all felony cases.
“That’s the basics that we’re charged with doing,” she said. “As a District Judge on the bench for 22 years, we handled all family law, child support and juvenile matters. In Superior Court, we have jury trials. In District Court, they only have jury trials in limited matters.”
So after more than 32 years of being a judge, 38 years of serving the State of North Carolina, winning seven elections and representing seven counties in the process, Wallace will call it quits next month.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual.
“I’ve got one big order to get out,” she said. “I’ll still be holding court until the last full week of July.”