Unsung Heroes: Nicole Little

Attorney Nicole Little

Unsung Heroes: Nicole Little
February 18
11:55 2020

Little looks to provide hope for the next generation

Throughout Black History Month The Chronicle will be highlighting unsung heroes in our community, those individuals who are setting an example for others and leaving a mark on the City of Winston-Salem that will be remembered for some time. This week we shed light on 2020 recipient of the city’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Young Dreamer Award and Winston-Salem native, Nicole Little.

As an attorney with Grace, Tisdale & Clifton P.A., Little spends most of her days at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice. Although she is an experienced attorney who has earned the respect of several local judges including Judge Denise Hartsfield, Little didn’t take what most would believe to be the traditional road to becoming a lawyer. In fact, Little said when she entered Wake Forest University as a freshman after graduating from Carver High School in 2009, her plan was to become a doctor. 

Although she wasn’t interested in being a lawyer, Little said she has always been a caring person who wanted to help others. She said, “I’ve always had a heart for helping people and a passion for wanting to see other people thrive. … I knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know how.” 

Little said it wasn’t until she started working with the Wake Forest Innocence and Justice Clinic and the push to free Darryl Hunt that she realized she had found her calling. Darryl Hunt was exonerated and released from prison in 2004 after serving nearly 20 years in prison for a crime for which he was wrongfully convicted. 

“When I started working with the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice and met Dr. Mark Rabil with the Justice Clinic, I saw the opportunity I had to really have an impact on my community,” Little said. “The people who were coming through the Innocence and Justice Clinic were people who looked like me, that I was raised with and I knew their stories personally, and I was able to be a bridge between the law students and people in the community. I figured that’s where I felt I could be most helpful.

“So when I got to Wake, no I didn’t know I would be a lawyer, but when I left there, I was at least on the pathway to becoming one and that’s because I was able to find my passion while I was there.” 

Ignited by her work to free Hunt, after graduating from WFU with B.A. degrees in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies, in 2017 Little went on to graduate magna cum laude from North Carolina Central University School of Law where she received her Juris Doctor. While at NCCU School of Law, Little also served as president of the Student Bar Association, executive editor of the NC Central Law Review Vol. 39, and intra-school competition coordinators for NCCU’s Trial Advocacy Board. She was also awarded the Floyd B. McKissick Award for Service and the C.C. “Buddy” Malone Award for Trial Advocacy. 

When discussing her journey with The Chronicle last week, Little said although law school was tough, what kept her going was the fight for justice. She said acts of injustice like Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman case, Darryl Hunt, and other stories served as her fuel to keep going. 

“By the time I got to law school, I already had Trayvon Martin’s story, I had Darryl’s Hunt story of being wrongfully convicted, and so that drove me,” Little continued. “Those moments where I would get tired and exhausted, I would put on the documentary, “The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” so I could remember why I was there.” 

While fighting for justice in the courtroom, Little also uses her voice to make a difference outside the walls of the Hall of Justice. Little has been honored for her work helping those who are underprivileged and under-represented, by assisting with voting rights programs and a program offered by HAWS that helps residents in public housing obtain college scholarships. 

Despite all her accomplishments, awards and accolades, Little said the most fulfilling thing she does is speak to young people in the community. Little said she wants to set an example for the young people who have dreams or goals that may seem impossible to reach.

Little said she can relate because growing up in Kimberley Park Terrace (now Aster Park Apartments), and at times when her family was living in separate homes, becoming a lawyer seemed to be out of her reach, but she made it happen. She said she wants to provide hope for the next lawyer, doctor, or entrepreneur. “It gives me the opportunity to let them know that I was once in your shoes,” Little said. 

“I enjoy letting them know the issues they’re facing, while it is unique to them, it’s very similar to what I had went through and I want them to know they’re not alone,” Little said. “And while I was in your shoes, I was able to get here … I’m able to provide a real, living, breathing example that they are not the sum of their worse mistake and they’re also not slaves to their circumstances.

“All people need sometimes is hope … People will thrive if we give them hope and that’s something I believe in whole-heartedly. So if I can serve as a little bit of hope for the middle school student at QEA (Quality Education Academy) who’s suffering from depression, or the student who really wants to go to college but their family can’t afford it, if I can serve as a little piece of hope, then I’ve served my purpose.”  

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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