Hodding Carter in 1962
William Hodding Carter, II
February 3, 1907
Hammond, Louisiana, United States
|Died||April 4, 1972 (aged 65)|
Greenville, Mississippi, United States
|Children||William Hodding III|
Thomas Hennen Carter.
Carter was born in Hammond, Louisiana, the largest community in Tangipahoa Parish, in southeastern Louisiana. His parents were William Hodding Carter I, and the former Irma Dutartre. Among other distinctions in his career, Carter was a Nieman Fellow. He died in Greenville, Mississippi, of a heart attack at the age of sixty-five. He is interred in the Greenville Cemetery.
After a year as a teaching fellow at Tulane University in New Orleans (1928-1929), Carter worked as reporter for the New Orleans Item-Tribune (1929), United Press in New Orleans (1930), and the Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi, (1931-32).
With his wife, Betty née Werlein (1910-2000) of New Orleans, Carter founded the Hammond Daily Courier, in 1932. The paper was known for its opposition to popular Louisiana governor Huey Pierce Long Jr., but its support for the national Democratic Party.
In 1939 Carter moved to Greenville, a Mississippi Delta city and the seat of Washington County, where he launched his successful Greenville Delta Democrat-Times, a newspaper later published by his oldest son William Hodding Carter III. Still later, his second son, Philip Dutartre Carter (born 1939), took over publication.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1946 for his editorials on intolerance, as exemplified by "Go for Broke", lambasting the ill treatment of Japanese American (Nisei) soldiers returning from World War II. He was a professor for a single semester at Tulane.
He also wrote editorials in the Greenville Delta Democrat-Times regarding social and economic intolerance in the Deep South that won him widespread acclaim and the moniker "Spokesman of the New South".
Carter wrote a caustic article for Look magazine which detailed the menacing spread of a chapter of the White Citizens' Council. The article was attacked on the floor of the Mississippi House of Representatives as a "Willful lie by a nigger-loving editor". Carter responded in a front-page editorial:
By vote of 89 to 19, the Mississippi House of Representatives has resolved the editor of this newspaper into a liar because of an article I wrote. If this charge were true, it would make me well qualified to serve in that body. It is not true. So to even things up, I hereby resolve by a vote of one to nothing that there are eighty-nine liars in the state legislature.
The Carters married on October 14, 1931. In addition to Hodding and Philip, they had a younger son, Thomas Hennen Carter (1945-1964), who killed himself playing a game of Russian roulette.
Carter was strongly opposed to the Munich Conference, which ceded Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler. Carter rushed into World War II service. While stationed at Camp Blanding in Florida, he lost the sight in his right eye during a training exercise. He thereafter served in the Intelligence Division and continued his journalistic activities by editing the Middle East division of Yank and Stars and Stripes in Cairo, Egypt, and writing three books.
Late in life, Carter attended the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in 1965.
Carter was an unabashed supporter of the Kennedys and their quest for the American Presidency.
He had dinner with Bobby Kennedy and his family the night before Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. Carter had also been working for him "campaigning, making talks, and writing ghost speeches". On a flight home, Carter learned of Kennedy's death and was devastated. A passenger on the plane said, "Well, we got that son-of-a-bitch, didn't we?" Carter responded, "Who are you talking about?" The passenger said, "You know damn well who I'm talking about", to which Carter responded by saying "You're just a son-of-a-bitch", and then punching the passenger in the mouth.
Columnist Eric Alterman, in a book review of The Race Beat (2006) for The Nation discusses how Carter and other Southern journalists were "moderate defenders" of the South. That is, they were apologists for the South during the pre-civil rights era. Alterman says, "'Enlightened'" Southern editors, especially...Mississippi's Hodding Carter, Jr., sold [Northerners] a Chalabi-like dream of steady, nonviolent progress that belied the violent savagery that lay in wait for those who stepped out of line". One of the reasons segregation had been a success, according to Alterman, is "the way newspapers had neglected it".
In Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist, author Ann Waldron makes the case that although Carter crusaded for racial equality, he hedged on condemning segregation, and that after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, he attacked the intransigent White Citizens' Council, but only supported gradual integration.
In defense of Carter, Claude Sitton, writing about Waldron's book in The New York Times says, "[R]eaders of today will ask how an editor who opposed enactment of a federal antilynching law as unnecessary and public school desegregation in Mississippi as unwise can be called a champion of racial justice. The answer, which she gives in the book's introduction, lies in the context of the times...Absent his efforts and those of other Southern editors of courage and like mind, change would have come far more slowly and at far greater cost."