Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Sid Salter: Journalist, Activist, & State Dept. Spokesman Hodding Carter, III Participated in History

The scion of one of the first families of Deep South print journalism during the civil rights movement, Hodding Carter III cast an impactful shadow during his long and impactful life. Carter died May 11 in Chapel Hill, N.C. at age 88 following a series of strokes.

Outside of Mississippi, Carter was best known as the assistant U.S. Secretary of State for public affairs during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 when militants seized the American Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans captive for 444 days.

Carter earned high praise for his efforts on behalf of President Jimmy Carter (no relation) and then-Secretary of State Cyrus Vance as he became the face of the U.S. government during the crisis. President Carter and Secretary Vance feared a misstep or misstatement on their part on television might endanger the lives of the hostages, so spokesman Carter was left to face the media daily and make decisions on his responses while in the glare of the klieg lights.

Hodding Carter III faced the media and the American public more during the hostage crisis than did President Carter’s White House Press Secretary Jody Powell and he was more than up to the task. But Carter was not immune to the lunge-and-parry with the reporters covering the State Dept. during that dangerous crisis.

During a press briefing, Carter once famously threw a rubber chicken at the particularly contentious reporter Lester “The Mad Monk” Kinsolving when the cameras weren't rolling. Kinsolving was a former Episcopal priest who tormented public officials and their spokesmen with often irrelevant and sometimes downright odd questions.

But it was Carter’s background in Democratic Party politics and civil rights activism in Mississippi that positioned him for his distinguished service during the Iranian hostage crisis.

William Hodding Carter III was the eldest son of “Big” Hodding Carter and Betty Werlein Carter. The elder Carter was a legendary Mississippi newspaper editor who took courageous stands on race and civil rights and who won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in an editorial decrying the shameful treatment of Japanese American soldiers returning from combat in World War II.

The notoriety of the father in many similar instances cast a professional shadow that the son struggles to escape, but not so with “Little” Hodding Carter. Few outside Mississippi ever used that reference.

The younger Carter graduated from Greenville High School after attending boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He was a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton and served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged in 1959 as a second lieutenant.

After his military service, Carter joined the staff of his family’s Greenville newspaper, The Delta Democrat-Times for 17 years. He rose from reporter and editorial writer to managing editor to associate publisher. He earned national Sigma Delta Chi journalism recognition for his editorial writing and was named a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

In 1968, Carter played a significant role in uniting a biracial Mississippi Democratic Party after the bitter credentials clash for the Mississippi delegation at the 1964 convention. In 1968, Carter’s “Loyalist” faction outmaneuvered the “Regulars” from the party’s formerly white majority – with the Loyalists including 1964’s “Freedom Democrats” along with the younger white Democrats.

That 1968 “Loyalist” win, many observers suggest, marked the beginning of the rise of the modern Republican Party in Mississippi – the party that now dominates the Mississippi congressional delegation, all eight statewide elected offices and both houses of the Mississippi Legislature.

One of the state’s young Republicans in those days was Haley Barbour, who after being chairman of the Republican National Committee and serving two terms as Mississippi’s governor, was in 2011 flirting with making a GOP presidential bid in 2012.

Carter was asked by a Pennsylvania newspaper about Barbour’s chances. What did the lifetime Democrat say? He called Barbour “a wonderful guy.”

“Barbour is constantly calculating what he needs to do with a wink and a nod to appeal to the right-wing base and at the same time be defended by friends who say he’s not a racist, which is true. His Southernness is one hell of a leg up for him,” he said. “Of course, can he carry Michigan?”

Carter’s final career stop was on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


WISEOWL said...

The whole family were scalawags,

Anonymous said...

Salter's musings on the observers and observed in "Deep South print journalism" of the 20th century are (sometimes) interesting. I'm suspecting my generation won't give our current media landscape and its players the same degree of retrospect or navel-gazing.

Anonymous said...

His grandfather's legacy speaks volumes and resonates daily and loudly in the distance of the Delta.

The microcosm of liberalism that festered in the expanse of a conservative Delta region was indeed the spawn of the Carter family. No doubt the liberal influence of the Delta Democrat Times, back then, was like no other social movement in this state. And it continued through multiple generations of Carters as the paper passed along the publisher's socio-political torch.

Greenville, today, is the perfect example of a city long infected by the virus of liberalism.

Hodding III grew up in the mold of his father and grandfather and embraced their ultra-liberalism and its destructive tentacles. His own daughter, once a member of the 'As The World Turns' soap, carries the torch today in California.

Anonymous said...

Hodding Carter in his book, When Main Street Meets the River, quotes a very wise woman who once said to him, "There are only two lasting bequests that we can hope to give our children—roots and wings." And they can be grown—these roots and wings—only in the home.

Anonymous said...

At St. James episcopal church in Greenville Ms. He taught high school seniors Sunday school. I can assure you the vast majority of those he taught revere and admire him, I am sure I do. His family may have been controversial, but those of us that knew them respected them. RIP.

Anonymous said...

A Democrat

Anonymous said...

If you want to see what progressive liberalism births, drive through Grenville, MS.

Anonymous said...

Attn 10:08 I grew up in Greenville. I can tell you from experience, do not go to a gas station in the town as thugs are hanging out everywhere. If there is a worse town in Mississippi, I don’t know where it is?

Anonymous said...

In the late 70's I went to Greenville for a soiree. I did not know Mr. Carter, then Jimmy Carter's State Dept. spokesman (before PC and spokesperson), but learned quickly he was en route. The commotion about his pending arrival seemed odd to the other regular attendees but not me, a non- Delta fellow.
When Hodding arrived, there was no rush to greet him by the Dixiecrats whose feathers had been apparently been ruffled earlier by the journalist. Hodding carried himself effortlessly, yet respectfully. We met briefly and went our separate ways.
I thought the evening unusual. Here, a Greenville native returned home without fanfare. The other attendees were unsettled and unsure how to approach him. That struck me as rudeness - not because they did not gush over him - but because many seemed to stand off and whisper about him. I received more attention than deserved because the regulars were trying to discern whether I came from old money or new money - so I enjoyed showing my "no money" card.
I grew to enjoy Mr. Carter's State Department missives and appreciated he was yet another Mississippian doing well on the national and international stages. I was a Republican but in those days, we respected others irrespective of party affiliations.
May Mr. Carter rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

1:26, you can’t name a worse town in Mississippi than Greenville? Uhhhhhh, Jackson - if only because it’s 6.5 times larger. And yeah, I agree Greenville has unfortunately become a dump.

Anonymous said...

@RMQ - The lack of a gushing reception for Mr. Carter was not because of any ruffling of Dixiecrat feathers. It was because in the Delta, where I grew up, we didn't observe the hallowed caste systems to which you may have been accustomed. He nor anybody else deserved or received the social status to which the family felt entitled. III was just as arrogant as I and II. It was an entrenched, liberal, egotistical, family attitude.

Perhaps he might have been on time instead of phoning ahead to announce his pending arrival ("I'll be there shortly. Please make sure the wine is chilled to a respectable 55."). The Carters all thought their shit didn't stink, but you're right...may he R.I.P.

Anonymous said...

The Carters won. They got their way. And look where we all are because the Carters (among many others of our betters, the upper caste) were conciliators and facilitators, reach-across-the-aisle-ers. Better? Better how? Better for who? Everybody?

Diddywahdiddy said...

Diddywahdiddy says:
Again, amazing and sadly not surprising...the ignorant vitriol herein. HCIII was a great man with clear vision and statesmanship. "There is usually one idiot per village...but here I have at least six"...and they continue to post their jealous racist rants against those in MS who have had a history of 'a rising tide raises all ships'...except those anchored to the seafloor by racism and bigotry.
Y'all all are too entertaining to be taken, seriously. How many of all y'all have taken the heat for over a year, on a daily basis, of the WH Press Corp, during one of our worst crises?
Kingfish, the "Patron Saint" who endures and suffers fools.
H. Carter III

Anonymous said...

11:01 - In pointing out that you are the lone poster making sense while at least six others are the opposite, you remind me of the fool who says, "I'm not paranoid. I just know everybody is out to get me". So, the six of us who knew the family must be wrong and you must be right.

One who knew the family, including II and III and the mother of III, cannot be called ignorant. One who KNOWS is not IGNORANT. You never knew or met any of them. You're simply liberal.

Anonymous said...

@11:01 in high dudgeon, still doesn’t tell what’s better for us thanks to the Carters. Oh, the Carters feel better about themselves. But that’s about it. RIP, HIII, but this hagio-eulogizing is undeserved.

Anonymous said...

11:01 PM,
Exactly who, how and why are there "racists" on this thread? Wasn't Carter a White man? If it's other White people criticizing him, how are they racist? I'm so confused, the rules keep changing.
Also, if he helped Greenville any, I can't see it.

Burke said...

Right on, 11:01!

The Delta is a classic case of automation destroying traditional jobs. I'm hoping that some new economy might emerge, but people have been hoping that for half a century at least. Meanwhile, it will continue to feature songs of sorrow and loss.

Anonymous said...

This thread is one of the nastiest displays of resentment I can recall. If a Republican media figure had just died and his liberal detractors started lining up to insult his memory, this website would crash from the volume of outraged howls about the left's contempt for basic civility, blah blah blah.

Double standards are coin of the realm.

Don Drane said...

Burke...I will stop short of calling you an idiot. I know for a fact, since I was heavily engaged in it, that automation had nothing to do with the destruction of traditional jobs in Greenville....whatever the hell that means. The economy of Washington County and Greenville was second to none in this state for decades.

In the period 1974-1994, Washington County was home to at least forty new and/or expanded industries offering jobs to (and employing) thousands of Greenvillians. The economy was thriving, despite the liberal foundation the Carters and others of similar ilk attempted to lay.

If you would like to debate this reality, I'll be glad to offer data and discuss further. I lived it. You didn't. All you know is what you might have read from Salter, Mitchell and Minor. To put it bluntly, you have no idea what you're talking about.

It's fine for you to be a liberal, but it's not fine for you to make up your own facts.

Diddywahdiddy said...

Diddywahdiddy says:
Amazing. There must be more than six village idiots herein.
And they appear to be multiplying.
My family knew the Carters quite well.
Very well.
For several generations.
To continue to read the jealous rants here is humorous.
As Jeremy Clarkson sez "Bloody Hell".
Thank God for the entertainment on this blog, y'all.

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