The Supreme Court has recently unveiled five new additions to its collection of portraits of former chief justices. Over the past two years, the Court has received and hung the portraits of Chief Justices Rhoda Billings, James G. Exum, Burley B. Mitchell Jr., Henry E. Frye, and I. Beverly Lake Jr. The addition of these portraits marks the first time that the collection has changed since the presentation and hanging of Chief Justice Joseph Branch's portrait in 1993.
"The portrait collection is an incredible window into the history of the Supreme Court," said Chief Justice Mark Martin, the 28th Chief Justice of North Carolina. "The Court could not be more excited about hanging the portraits of these incredible jurists and leaders who, collectively, represent over twenty years of Court history."
The Court has a long and proud tradition of accepting the portraits of its former members that dates back to the presentation of the portrait of Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin, which was presented in 1888 by his son. Each portrait is privately commissioned before being presented to the Court by the justice's family and friends in a special ceremonial session of court. The Court's portrait collection is said to be one of the most complete in the entire country.
Portraits of former associate justices adorn the halls outside of the courtroom, while the portraits of chief justices hang in chronological order in the court room itself. Out of respect for the fair and impartial administration of justice, portraits are not presented until after the justice concludes his or her service on the court and are not displayed until the justice has fully retired from the practice of law.
With the addition of these five portraits, the only portraits now missing from the collection are those of the immediate past chief justice, Sarah Parker, and that of current chief justice, Mark Martin, who is still serving on the Court.