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Arthur Carter created local, national legacy

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Arthur L. Carter Sr., a Tuskegee Airman and former controller of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, passed away Jan. 6. He was 92. 

Carter is the last original airman for the Hoosier State officially enrolled in the organization, said Leon Lewis, historian for the Indianapolis chapter of Tuskegee Airman Inc. “For our records, he’s the last one,” Lewis said. 

“He was a sparkplug for our organization, more or less, he was a connection with the new people, to the original Tuskegee Airmen.” 

Carter is survived by four children: daughter Lennie Marcia Carter, MSW; sons Arthur L. Carter Jr., LLD; John Dale Carter, PhD; and his daughter Mary Ann Dickerson, retired educator. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ann Grace Bargyh, and a son who died in infancy.

Not only did Carter serve his country well, he also contributed a great deal to the survival of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.

“Art Carter was a tremendous asset to the Recorder,” said Recorder Shannon Williams. “When Bill Mays purchased the economically-destitute Recorder in 1990, it was Mr. Carter’s extensive accounting expertise that helped place the Recorder on a financially-stable track. He served this newspaper for years as its controller, volunteering his time because of his love for the publication that he delivered as a child. The Recorder family has lost a longtime supporter. He will be missed tremendously.”

(For more coverage about Arthur Carter, see Shannon Williams’ column this week on A6.)

Carter was born Dec. 7, 1922. A native of Houston, Texas, he and his grandmother migrated to Indianapolis after the death of his parents in 1924.  He attended and graduated from Crispus Attucks High School, to briefly attend Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and Indiana University Extension prior to entering the military.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now U.S. Air Force) in 1941 at age 19, and became a Tuskegee Airman, trained as an airplane engine mechanic.

Following his honorable military discharge November 1945, Carter worked as a tax accountant for the Department of Veterans Affairs, from 1945-1949; as an agent for the Internal Revenue Service, from 1949-1952; and as an accountant with the General Accounting office from 1952-1972.  He also operated his own accounting practice and a popular travel agency, Twilight Travel Agency, the first registered African-American travel agency in the State of Indiana.

Concurrent with his federal service and private sector entrepreneurship, Carter earned a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis in 1977. Receiving his license to practice as a Public Accountant in Indiana in l972, he also began a practice of public accounting and tax consulting to retire in December 1995.

Carter was active in several civic groups. He was an honored member and leader of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and Boy Scouts of America, from which he received the Silver Beaver Award for his 27 years of service to scouting.

Former Gov. Evan Bayh made him a Sagamore of the Wabash, a tribute made by Indiana governors to individuals for service to the state and nation. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels gave him the Governor’s Award for Military Service. He also received the Congressional Gold Medal. Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. honored him with the Laurel Wreath Award.

“The fact is, Mr. Carter was a friend to everyone in the organization. Fact is, he was a role model for the ones who came along later,” said Lewis, who said he’s known Carter since 1995. “He was our treasurer, he kept extremely good records. We can’t say too many good things about him-he was an excellent person. Never heard him say any bad things about anybody, he was a gentleman.”

Did you know?

Carter served three years as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, from October 1942 until the end of World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen were American’s first Black military airmen, assigned to become pilots in an effort to break the race barrier.

Following pressure from civil rights organizations, the Tuskegee Airmen became the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. They were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field at Tuskegee University, which was founded by Booker T. Washington, and at Moton Field 10 miles away.

Between 1941 and 1946 more than 1,000 Black pilots were trained at Tuskegee, Ala. Collectively, the Tuskegee Airmen received Presidential Unit Citations, 50 Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight Purple Hearts.

Thirty of the pilots were from Indiana and 13 of them, including Carter, were graduates of Crispus Attucks High School. Sixty-eight Tuskegee Airmen were killed during the war; 32 were captured as prisoners of war.

In 1998, Congress authorized $29 million for the Tuskegee Airman National Historic Site at Tuskegee University. To date, less than $4 million of that amount has been appropriated.

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