Don Carter’s values endure in journalism chair, endowment at Grady College

Don Carter (ABJ ‘38) was remembered in services Saturday as a man devoted to his wife, Carolyn (ABJ ’40), to his family, his church and to journalism and the Grady College.  Although he had been a leading newspaper editor and executive, Carter was remembered as a humble man who appreciated the “simple gifts” of the Shaker song.

Former President Jimmy Carter remembered his older cousin, Don, for his truthfulness, honesty and journalistic inquisitiveness, qualities that will be perpetuated in future journalists with support from generous gifts to the college by Don and Carolyn Carter.

Don Carter (in center) with two of his close friends, Carrol Dadisman (left) and Kent Middleton, at the Grady College Centennial celebration in April 2015.

Jimmy Carter said his cousin broadened the future president’s horizons when Don went from Plains to the University of Georgia, the first Carter to attend college.  Speaking at the spare St. Simons Presbyterian Church, the former president remembered how the Atlanta Journal, where Don had been city editor, sent a reporter to investigate voter fraud in Quitman County during Jimmy Carter’s first political campaign for a Georgia Senate seat. The resulting front-page stories and cartoons about citizens–living and dead–voting in alphabetical order helped restore Carter’s  narrow election victory.

Don Carter died March 22, 2017, three months shy of his 100th birthday. Carolyn, his beloved wife for 68 years, died in 2010.

“Don Carter will be remembered as one of Grady College’s iconic alumni,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “One of journalism’s giants, he always kept the college foremost in his heart, giving of his time, talent and treasure.

“The endowment of journalism he established will help train journalists for generations and generations to come,” Davis said.    In 2014, Don established by gift and bequest the college’s first endowment of a departmental mission, the Don E. and Carolyn McKenzie Carter Endowment for Journalism Excellence.  In 2004, the Carters began an endowment that became the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism,

Janice Hume, head of the Department of Journalism and holder of the Carter Chair, said the chair and endowment  “will further the enduring values of journalism that Don and Carolyn knew were essential to a democratic society.  The endowment will underwrite classes, symposia on the future of news, distinguished lecturers, internships and faculty and student development, all in the pursuit of journalism excellence.

“Don and Carolyn were both such lovely people,” Hume said.  “Don was passionate about news, about responsible and ethical journalism.  We will always be grateful for, and we will honor,  his friendship, generosity and vision.”

The first holder of the Carter Chair, John F. Greenman, former president and publisher of the Columbus-Ledger Enquirer, established a new course on credibility in the news media and directed a rigorous program in public affairs journalism, coverage of poverty and a symposium and medal series honoring courage in journalism.

“Don was a powerful advocate for socially responsible journalism when he was vice president for news at Knight Ridder, the best newspaper chain of his era,” said Kent Middleton, a long-time Carter friend and former head of the Department of Journalism.  “Now, more than ever, journalists need to be dedicated to the accurate, truthful, fair journalism Carter championed.”

In 2008, Don and Carolyn Carter were members of the inaugural class of Grady Fellows, a fellowship of distinguished alumni and prominent communication professionals and faculty whose lives and careers have contributed measurably to the national reputation of the college.

“We are proud that we have a strong and dedicated College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia,” the Carters said at the time.  “During this period of media mergers, technology acceleration and public doubts, we believe it helps assure us of continued free rights, fair government and economic progress.”

In 2014, Don Carter received the Dean’s Medal, Grady’s highest honor.

Carter shared this photo and caption when he was inducted into the Grady Fellowship: “This photo was made in the newsroom of the Atlanta Journal in the late 1950s. William I. (Bill) Ray (center), then Managing Editor, was congratulating City Editor Don Carter (left) and News Editor Durwood McAlister (right), on the fine quality of the Final Home Edition of that day’s Atlanta Journal.”

During his career Don Carter reported, edited and managed newspapers in Macon, Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Miami. He was the founding managing editor of The National Observer.   He was vice president for news at Knight-Ridder for six years  until his retirement in 1982.

Carter was born and raised in Plains, where he aspired to be a journalist since high school. After spending two years at a junior college, Don transferred to the University of Georgia.

That was the beginning of what Carrol Dadisman (ABJ ’56), a friend and protégé, said was “a life-long love of UGA, of Grady College and of The Red & Black.”

Following graduation, Don and his wife-to-be, Carolyn McKenzie, a pioneering photographer,  worked for then-competing Atlanta newspapers, Don for The Atlanta Journal and Carolyn for The Atlanta Constitution, where she was the first full-time female photographer for the newspaper.

In the late 1950s, Carter directed the Newspaper Fund, a program created by Dow Jones offering fellowships to high school teachers who taught journalism.  He was a frequent discussion leader with the American Press Institute, a mid-career education center for newspapers and newspaper staff members.  He served on the board of directors of The Red & Black Board for more than 25 years.

The first Don E. Carter Journalism Internship was held by Lauren McDonald (ABJ ’16) at The Brunswick News, where she is now a fulltime reporter.

“Not only did Mr. Carter make that initial internship possible, but I would not have a job without the support he provided,” McDonald said. “I am doing what I love, and it’s because he gave me that initial support.”

Additional resources:

Don Carter, First Director, Dies; from Dow Jones New Fund

Don Carter: Grady alumnus remembered as dedicated journalist, friend and husband; from the Red & Black

Don Carter, 99: Newspaper lover found love at newspaper; from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution