Accomplished Alumna: Carolyn Justice
by Conway Dryden, CFCC Foundation Intern
Growing up in a house full of military heroes, Carolyn Justice was taught the importance of honor, country and service at a young age.
Justice, a current House Representative for the 16th district of NC, didn’t start out her life knowing she wanted to be in politics. Born in Wilmington in 1946, Justice and her parents lived with her grandparents who ran a boarding house at 913 Market Street. Her grandmother opened the business in the early 1940’s and after the passing of Justice’s grandfather, she moved her family of seven into the boarding house. During WWII, all of her uncles went off to war and her mother and aunts helped cook, clean and run the boarding house. Men who would come to Wilmington during the week to work in the shipyard would stay at the boarding house. Justice and her sister were raised in this busy environment of men who served as surrogate fathers, since they were away from their families during the week.
“I not only grew up knowing the importance of serving your country, but after the war patriotism was strong among my family, each whom had sacrificed something during their efforts,” said Justice.
As a young adult, Justice went straight into the workforce taking advantage of an apprenticeship bookkeeping program while living in Northern Virginia. She eventually was promoted to a Full Charge Bookkeeper. In 1976 Justice and her husband moved back to North Carolina and opened a clothing store in Hampstead. Soon realizing there were few advertising opportunities for a business, Justice started a newspaper named the Sounds of Pender East.
Driven to have more news to publish in her newspaper, Justice started attending Pender County Commissioners’ meetings where she soon developed a keen interest in politics. Her newspaper began covering the county commissioners, school board, health department and hospital, along with any other news of interest on the Pender coast. Justice later sold her newspaper and it is now called the Topsail Voice. Some 25 years after selling the newspaper, Justice began Hampstead Management Services and over the years she has managed a portfolio of 13 home owners associations, two shopping centers and a 300-unit mini storage facility.
Justice’s interest in politics soon led her to run for the office of County Commissioner in 1994. After serving nine years, Justice ran for the North Carolina House in 2002. With nine years of service in the House, next year may be her last.
“I believe in term limits in any one elected office. Though there is no state statue limiting the number of terms a member can service in the House or Senate, I have limited myself to ten years and next year will be my tenth year.” Justice says, “I am considering other elected options but have not yet made my mind up as to whether or not I will run or for what office.”
Justice has attended classes at CFCC on and off for years and continues to do so. Her studies have mainly consisted of core subjects but her long-range goal is to transfer to UNCW and seek a degree in political science. Justice says she has truly enjoyed her classes at CFCC. “I think it’s different for older people than it is for college-aged students. I think it takes a different set of skills to study than it does to be in the workforce. But I do believe that in today’s world, community colleges are more geared up than ever to deal with older students coming back to school to retool for different jobs in this very difficult economy,” comments Justice.
Justice says that owning a business, serving as an elected official and taking classes is a labor of love, but she has a very supportive family who help her accomplish this feat. “Learning to focus and compartmentalizing your work is very important. If not, you can find yourself scattered and you will never do anything well,” advises Justice.
When asked what she would tell other students Justice said, “I would advise all students to focus on their future and where their course work is really going to take them. Find out what careers are going to remain stable in this changing economy. Diversify your curriculum and give yourself some options. When you do get out in the job market, be ready to be flexible.”