By Rev. Michael Goings
Arguably and definitely, to my estimation, one of the most accomplished, influential, and civic-minded African-Americans in our locale is Mr. Dolphus Carter. This assertion is not just my personal opinion, but the belief of many who have known and observed him for many decades. He has been such an unassuming and unshowy public servant over the years, who by his own design has avoided the limelight. Regrettably, this commendable practice of modesty has caused much of his achievements and contributions to go unnoticed and unappreciated by many in our locale.
I have known Mr. Carter for well over 50 years.
I first met him through his oldest child and daughter, Joyce Renee Carter, who was my classmate in elementary and junior high school at Gordon. I will never forget her playing the lead role of Goldilocks in an operetta we both were in, and I played the role of Papa Bear.
Then I became further acquainted with him through his wife, Mrs. Ruby Carter, who was my guidance counselor in high school and one of my most influential mentors. When I first got the idea to do this four part series, the first person who came to mind, who certified as a living legend within our African-American community, was Mr. Dolphus Carter.
Dolphus Carter, Jr. was born in Allendale, S.C. Graduating from Allendale County Public Schools, he entered the United States Army.
During his service in the Army, he trained and became a member of the elite 82nd Airborne Division. Originally, African Americans were members of the all Black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was nicknamed the “Triple Nickles” because of its numerical designation and the selection of 17 of the original 20-member “colored test platoon” from the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division.
The Old English spelling, ‘Nickles’, instead of ‘Nickels’ was used. It was quite a distinction to make the 82nd. Carter loved the challenge of making the cut and ultimately the thrill of jumping out of airplanes.
Honorably discharged from the Army in 1954, Carter enrolled in Claflin College, Orangeburg, S.C. He graduated from Claflin in 1957 with a Bachelor’s degree in Education.
He received a Master’s degree, also in Education, from South Carolina State College. Following his graduation from Claflin, Carter accepted a position as principal of Dillon School District Two’s Minturn Grove Elementary School.
Despite offers from school districts throughout the state, Carter chose to remain in Dillon District Two throughout his education career. He is known and respected for his leadership as a principal and his unparalleled drive for excellence to ensure the success of all the students in his care. Carter served as principal of Minturn Grove until 1968. He spent one year at Gordon Elementary as principal before being assigned to Dillon High School.
Following his service at Dillon High, he became principal at South Elementary. He returned to Gordon Elementary in 1980 and served as principal there until his retirement in 1992.
Mr. Carter has been named to numerous education related boards and committees. Most notably, he was appointed by Governor Richard Riley to be a member of the South Carolina Board of Education.
He served two terms on the state board. Appointed as a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Dillon County in 1994, he currently serves as Chief Judge.
He has earned the reputation of being a no-nonsense, tough, but fair adjudicator.
Prior to becoming a judge, Carter was a member of the City of Dillon Zoning Board. He served as Chairman of the Zoning Board.
He remains an active member of the Dillon County Democratic Party, serving as Vice-Chairman for a period of time.
Carter is an active member of St. Stephens United Methodist Church. He has held a range of leadership positions in the church, including Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the Administrative Board, President of the United Methodist Men and President of the Senior Choir.
Married to Ruby Woods Carter, the Carters are parents of three adult children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A son, Dolphus Carter, III, died in 2007.
Dolphus Carter is a proud and avid gardener. He likes to brag that “if it grows in the ground, I can grow it!” In addition to gardening, he enjoys spending time with his many friends and his horse named, Grandma.
The previous biographical sketch was made available by the daughters of Judge Carter, Renee and Jane.
It is fitting that we conclude this series by considering a person who has played such a pivotal role in the growth of our locale.
A man who continues to serve with integrity and distinction in his present position, Judge Carter embodies the spirit of endurance and vigor and is an example for people like me who consider themselves late bloomers in the prime of life. Like him, I desire to be involved and productive in my latter years.
However, perhaps the greatest lesson that we all can learn from Judge Carter is how to remain modest and not to seek the limelight nor toot the horn of self-conceit.
Thank you, Sir, for being the quiet man in an age of chatter and noise without significance. For yours is a model worth imitating and passing on to the next generation.
Thank you for being a living legend and best of all not even knowing it!
By Rev. Michael Goings