Carter began his career in high school as a reporter for the local Murray Ledger & Times in Murray, KY. After attending Murray State University and the University of Missouri, where he earned his master’s in journalism in 1949, Carter went to work for Better Homes and Gardens as an assistant editor, but left to join the U.S. Navy, serving two tours in the Korean War and attaining the rank of lieutenant.
On returning, he took a job as managing editor of Household Magazine, based in Topeka, KS, before moving to New York City.
Once in the New York media scene he ascended the ranks quickly -- first at Curtis Publishing’s American Home, then as editor of McCall’s from 1962-1965, then again at Curtis Publishing -- this time at Ladies’ Home Journal, where he served as editor from 1965-1973.
From 1973-1975, he returned to American Home as chairman and editor in chief, before joining Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, where he ultimately stayed for two decades from 1975-1995.
Embarking on his career in an era when women’s magazines were still largely led by men, Carter worked his way to the top just in time for the rise of feminism, when his prestigious positions thrust him into the center of social and political upheaval. In the most famous episode, while editor of Ladies’ Home Journal, Carter was held hostage for 11 hours by around 100 feminist activists who demanded his resignation; instead Carter agreed to changes in the magazine’s editorial approach.
Carter proved himself up the challenge, charting a new course for women’s magazines while taking on women’s causes as his own. In one interview he observed: “Power is the big issue that divides men and women. Men hold power, women want power, but men are reluctant to give it -- any of it -- away.” Later, he became one of the first male members of the Association for Women in Communications. In 1979, Carter testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Human Resources, advocating equal rights for women.
In addition to advocacy and wide-ranging philanthropic pursuits, Carter continued to make waves in the media business. After becoming president of Hearst Magazine Enterprises in 1994, Carter played a key role launching new titles including Country Living, SmartMoney, Victoria and Marie Claire.
Carter is survived by his wife of 66 years, Sharlyn Reaves Carter, his twin sister, two children, their spouses, and four grandchildren.