Judge Linda McGee

Judge Linda McGee with children

NC Court of Appeals Judge Linda Mace McGee was raised in the small town of Marion, at the edge of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Even in the 1960s, Marion was a mill town and both Linda’s parents worked in the textile mill. The mill, and two blocks away, the church and the elementary school across the road were the center of life in Marion – and the brightest star in that constellation was the multi-purpose recreation center the mill had built for their workers and their families. The combination community center, gymnasium and meeting place had boys and girls basketball teams, bowling teams, softball teams – and most important to Linda, it was the home of her Girl Scout troop.

Linda spent eight years as a Girl Scout and the 12 or so girls in her troop became her closest friends. The brick rec center had a special meeting room with a piano, Linda remembers. All the girls would stand around and sing as they gave each other music lessons and worked on their music appreciation badge. They all wore their Girl Scout uniforms proudly and met week after week to work on their badges and plan out the Girl Scout Cookie sale that would help them raise money so they could all go to Girl Scout camp near Brevard. “We were very competitive about earning badges and selling cookies,” Linda says, “and we thought we could do anything.”

Linda applied for a scholarship to go to college, and the person interviewing her was a lawyer. Linda’s favorite TV program was Perry Mason, but this was the first lawyer she had met in person. She saw Perry Mason as a respected member of his community and she admired that he was always there to help people. The influence of those two role models, one real and one imagined, reinforced her Girl Scout-inspired desire to help people.

Linda got her scholarship and went to UNC-Chapel Hill – and then on to law school there. “I’m a double Tar Heel,” she says proudly. Her first job was as executive director of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, and then into private practice in Boone where her husband – whom she had met while at Chapel Hill – had been hired as Watauga County Manager.

Two sons and 17 years later, she was ready to try something new, and in 1995, Linda’s friend and colleague, Leslie Winner, encouraged her to try for appointment to the state Court of Appeals. Leslie herself had already been in the state Senate for five years and both women felt North Carolina needed more women on the bench. Linda won appointment to the court, and in her first run for elective office, elected to the 15-member Court of Appeals where she has served for 17 years. She is now running her third statewide campaign to continue her service on the state’s second highest court.

Linda’s great love is civic involvement, and she credits her Girl Scout civics badge for starting her down that road. She was chair of the Civic Education Consortium, and the NC Bar has awarded her their Pro Bono Service Award. She was named a Woman of Achievement by the state’s General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and a Toll Fellow by the Council of State Governments. She is a charter member of the NC Association of Women Attorneys, a charter member and former chair of its Judicial Division, and in 1999, they named her their Outstanding Judge of the Year. She helped start Blue Ridge Legal Services during her time in Boone, and is a past board member of Legal Services of North Carolina. She was a charter member of OASIS (Opposing Abuse through Service, Information and Shelter). She is a member of the Chief Justice’s Equal Access to Justice Commission, the NC Women’s Forum and a true believer that if something needed to be done, it would be a Girl Scout who would do it!

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