Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: William Hodding Carter, II


William Hodding Carter, II (1907- 1972)

Major Works

Hodding Carter, II
"The South is so often damned for social backwardness,   for reaction entrenched in smugness and lethargy, that it is a pleasure to introduce a young Southerner who represents a totally different school of thought and action."
                              Saturday Evening Post Feb.23, 1946, on Hodding Carter's 1946 Pulitzer Prize
  • Lower Mississippi (1942)
  • Civilian Defense of the United States with Colonel Ernest Dupuy (1942)
  • Winds of Fear (1945)
  • Flood Crest (1947)
  • Southern Legacy (1950)
  • Gulf Coast Country with Anthony Ragusin (1951)
  • Where Main Street Meets the River (1953)
  • John Law Wasn't So Wrong: The Story of
  • Louisiana's Horn of Plenty (1952)
  • Robert E. Lee and the Road of Honor (1955)
  • So Great A Good: A History of the Epispcopal
  • Church in Louisiana and Christ Church Cathedral with Betty Carter(1955)
  • The Marquis de Lafayette: Bright Sword for Freedom (1958)
  • The Angry Scar:The Story of Reconstruction (1959)
  • First Person Rural (1963)
  • Doomed Road of Empire: The Spanish Trail of Conquest with Betty Carter (1963)
  • The Ballad of Catfoot Grimes and Other Verses (1964)
  • So the Heffners Left McComb (1965)
  • The Commandos of World War II (1966)
  • The Past as Prelude:New Orleans 1718-1968 editor (1968)
  • Their Words Were Bullets: The Southern Press in War, Reconstruction, and Peace (1969)
  • Man and the River, the Mississippi (1970)

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Biography of Hodding Carter, II
By Jennifer Phillips (SHS)

William Hodding Carter II, the son of William Hodding and Irma Dutarte Carter, was born on February 3, 1907, in Hammond, Louisiana (USM-McCain Library and Archives).  As a young child, Carter spent his summer days with his grandmother in the Mississippi Delta along the Mississippi River.  At the age of eighteen, Hodding Carter moved away to attend Bowdoin College in Maine, were he received his B.A. in 1927.  Carter then transferred to Columbia University to study journalism for one year before taking a teaching fellowship at Tulane University in 1928. Upon completion of his fellowship at Tulane, Carter began writing for the New Orleans paper, Item-Tribune.  He then took a job working as the Night Bureau manager for United Press in New Orleans. His competence and determination brought him to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1930 as the Bureau Manager of Associated Press (Current Biography 1946).

On October 31, 1931, Hodding Carter married Betty Werlein.  However, their  happiness  immediately met with turmoil. In April of 1932, Hodding Carter was fired from his job at Associated Press for "insubordination." The supervisor who made the decision to release Carter from his position wrote a letter to Carter. Carter says  that the letter stated that he " had some good qualities, but I would never make a newspaper man, and I ought not waste any time getting into another business" (Carter 3). The man's attempt to persuade the young writer from a career in journalism failed miserably.  The young couple moved back to Carter's hometown of Hammond, Louisiana, where they intended to open a daily paper, the Daily Courier. An attack on his abilities had only made the Carter more determined, "We had to prove to our families and ourselves and the man who had written the letter that the letter was wrong."(Hodding Carter in his biography Where Main Street Meets the River). The main goal of Carter's  Daily Courier was to focus on the wrong doings of Congressman Huey Long.  Carter's newspaper was so strong that "theirs was the only district in the state [Louisiana] that never sent a Long henchman to congress," (Time Magazine 20May46). Amidst the battle against Huey Long, the Hammond Daily Courier took the time to print such articles as the birth of Hodding and Betty's first son, William Hodding Carter III, on April 8, 1935 (Current Biography:  1946).

In 1935 Carter attended a literary conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  While there, he met David Cohn, a Greenville, Mississippi, writer and author.  Cohn convinced Hodding that Greenville needed his talents as an experienced newspaperman.  On July 7, 1936, Hodding Carter drew up an outline for his new paper, and, with help from William Alexander Percy, author of Lanterns on the Levee (yet unpublished), the Delta Star was up and running (Waldron 69).

In 1938, Carter and Betty bought out the only other daily in Greenville, the Democrat Times, and merged the two papers to form the Delta Democrat-Times.  The paper was a steady success, and Hodding gained more recognition for his talents as a editor and writer.

On September 29, 1938, Neville Chamberlain and Daladier met with Hitler and Mussolini in Munich.  On the 30th, the Munich "Peace in our times" Pact was signed.  Hodding's feelings on this matter were so stong in opposition to the pact that he signed with the National Guard (Waldron 87).

In April of 1939, Carter was offered one of the prestigious Neiman Fellowships at Harvard University.  After much debate and long conversations with his wife, Percy, and other shareholders of the Delta Democrat-Times, Hodding decided to accept the fellowship.  In October of 1939, their second son, Philip Dutartre Carter, was born.  In January of 1940, Hodding and Betty set off with their two boys to Cambridge, Massachusetts.  While at Harvard, Hodding had time to think about an offer Ralph Ingersoll had made to him--to be the editor of Ingersoll's creation, PM.  On June 1, 1940, Carter reported to work in New York, New York. While Carter did gain some recognition at PM, he wanted to return to the Delta and his newspaper. On September 21, 1940, he was on his way out the door and back to Greenville, Mississippi,  to take up his old job (Where Main Street Meets the River).Hodding Carter II

In November, 1940, the National Guard mobilized, and Carter was, once again, on the move-- this time to Camp Blanding, Florida.  While there, he became Public Relations Officer for the regiment.  He also suffered an accident while training that cost him his sight in one eye.  Sent overseas with the war, Carter wrote for the Middle East versions of the patriotic papers, Yank and Stars and Stripes in Cairo, Egypt. In 1945, Hodding Carter received an Honorable Discharge from the United States Armed Services and returned home to Greenville, Mississippi (Current Biography:  1946).

Upon arrival home, Carter took up his fight against Senator Theodore Bilbo.  He wrote a series of articles dealing with racial, economic, and religious problems in Mississippi.  His editorials were published at a very rocky time in the South, and Hodding's  articles stood apart from other debate and speculation on the status of African-Americans in society at the time.  The magazine PM stated in an article published on August 5, 1945, that "The chief reasons for the silence are the fear of being labeled a 'nigger lover' or the feeling--even among many of those unsympathetic with such views--that the South should present a united front un racial matters" (Current Biography: 1946). Widely acclaimed and critized, Hodding received national recognition as a writer when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in May of 1946. In August of '46, Carter established a second paper, the Delta Star, which received attention when Hodding published an article dealing with the beating--death of a black boy by five white boys (Cox Mississippi Almanac).

Tragedy struck the Carter family on April 27, 1964, when Hodding and Betty's third son, Thomas Hennen Carter, shot himself while playing Russian Roulette. That same day, Hodding had been hospitalized for separating his retina.  He was temporarily blind (Waldron 305).

In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill. Hodding continued to contribute editorial  to the Delta Democrat-Times, which his son now ran unofficially.  He also contributed two articles to the New York Times Magazine dealing with the South's judicial system and the degradation of the Confederate flag (Waldron 317). In 1965, Hodding gave  the very first Carlos McClatchy Memorial Lecture at Stanford University.  In June of 1966, when son Hodding Carter III came back from Harvard, Hodding officially handed the paper over to him. Betty and Hodding spent the summer in Maine, trusting "Young" Hodding to take care of the business without his father watching over him.

In 1968, Hodding was asked to give the Lamar Memorial Lectures at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.  He was so ill that he was unable to speak, and his wife was forced to read from notes he had prepared for himself.  He also received the Tenth Annual First Federation Award for his service to Mississippi (Waldron 321). He was not able to travel to Columbia University in 1971 when he received the Columbia University Journalism Award.

Eventually, Hodding Carter's condition deteriorated even more.  On April 4, 1972, Hodding Carter died. Both of his sons wrote editorials about him in the Delta Democrat-Times. The following day. Philip, who runs the paper today, recalled, "We called him Big because he was; Hodding Carter was the biggest of his clan, a legend, first of all in his own tribe." (Waldron 325).

"If I have gained anything in life, it is a belief in the soul and the destiny of man."
                                                                  Hodding Carter

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Timeline

1907  3 February  William Hodding Carter II born

1925  Attends Bowdoin College in Maine

1927  Graduates with B.A. from Bowdoin College

1928  Spring  Studies Journalism at Columbia University

Fall  Accepts teaching fellowship at Tulane

1929  Reporter for New Orlean's Item-Tribune

1930 Night Bureau manager for United Press, New Orleans

Bureau Manager for Associated Press, Jackson, MS

1931   31 October    Marries Betty Werlein

1932     April    Fired for "Insubordination" from Associated Press  

Establishes Daily Courier in Hammond, LA

1936      Hodding and Betty move to Greenville, Mississippi Delta Star is up and running under Carter's guidance                                     

1938    Delta Star merges with Democrat Times: forms Delta Democrat-Times

1939    Fall Works under a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard

1940    Spring  Served as Press Editor for the magazine PM, New York       

October     Philip Dutartre Carter is born
November Stationed at Camp Balding, Florida, 31st Division Paper
                Loses sight in his right eye during a training exercise

1941    Is stationed in Washington, D.C., Army Bureau of Public Relations

1943  Cairo, Egypt; Writes for the  Middle East versions of Yank and Stars and Stripes

1945  Receives Honorable Discharge from Armed Forces

28 March   Thomas Hennen Carter is born
                 Receives Guggenheim Writing Fellowship

1946    May   Receives Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing
           Fall    Establishes newspaper:  Morning Star

1950     Carter is given distinction to be the first man in Greenville, Mississippi, to make a long distance  telephone call.  He calls his father

1954     Marks the fifth year in a row that  the Delta Democrat  Times wins the Mississippi Press Association's General Excellence Award

1960   Hodding Carter III takes unofficial control of the Delta Democrat-Times

1964   27 April  Carter is hospitalized for a detached retina in his good eye.  His son, Tommy, kills himself while playing  Russian Roulette

1966   June  Hodding Carter III officially becomes editor of Delta  Democrat-Times

1971   Receives the Columbia University Journalism Award

1972   4 April   Dies of heart attack in Greenville, Mississippi

1996  6 December   Nominated to the Mississippi Hall of Fame

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A Review of Kinsman
by Jennifer Phillips (SHS)

Kinsman
"His mother was a yellow girl,
My Uncle's child they say;
But such is not our greeting when
He comes my way.
The hawk-thin nose; the upflung brow,
Make him my darker mime;
I wonder if he knows it when
He begs a dime?"
Hodding Carter
       from The Ballad of Catfoot Grimes and Other Verses

Hodding Carter II is best known for his articles dealing with racism in the South.  After all, these articles did win him the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1946.  However, Hodding Carter published over twenty novels and books in his life.  Many of them dealt with segregation and separation.  Most of them were about the South.  Hodding Carter II wrote about history, mentality, and himself.

The Ballads of Catfoot Grimes and Other Verses is a compilation of poems and ballads written by Hodding Carter II.  Kinsman is one of the many poems written about race relations in Mississippi and other Southern states. This poem is about a white man dwelling on his relationship to a black man.  This man also happens to be his cousin--his uncle's child. No one in the family claims this relationship to the African-American, but they are all shamefully aware of its truth.

This poem hits upon the strong feelings of racism and shame that haunted the South at the time of its publication.  Feelings that continue to haunt America, not just the South, today.  These feeling are so strong that the man refuses to acknowledge the existence of his own dark-skinned cousin to the public.  His sentiment is the same as many Southerners of the time who shied  away from the truth  for fear of being cast in the shadow of the various labels associated with African American sympathizers of the time.  Hodding Carter has attempted to show the good in man. He has attempted to draw from our conscience and force us to realize the wrong doings of our everyday actions or lack of action.

The harsh reality in the poem is the truth of it.  In today's society, we shame our ancestors for their apparent ignorance and blatant disregard for other men.  The truth, however, is that we would be in the same boat as they were generations ago--he seems to be asking:  do we follow our hearts or do we follow our minds?     Hodding Carter had the ability to do both.  He realized that society was wrong and that it must be changed.  He realized that man was a cruel titan, intent on remaining unchanged-- no matter what the cost.  He also realized that some things in life are better left unchanged. Instead of insisting upon an immediate change in our society, he forced us to question our actions and our judgment.  He realized how devastating forced and immediate change could be to a society and its people. He knew that, given time, the situation  would change ourselves and the nation we live in.

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Related Websites

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Bibliography

Carter, Hodding. The Ballad of Catfoot Grimes and Other Verses.Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1946.

Carter, Hodding. The Winds of Fear. New York: J.J. Little and Ives, 1944.

Carter, Hodding. Where Main Street Meets the River. New York: Rinehart and Co., 1953.

Cox, James L."Profiles of Famous Mississippians."Mississippi Almanac 1997-1998. USA:James  L. Cox, 1997.

"Carter, (William) Hodding, Jr.". Current Biography:  1946. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1946.

"Hodding Carter III elected President of John S. and James L. Knight Foundation." Editorial. Philanthropy News Digest 24 Sep. 1997: 3:38. Available http://fdncenter.org/pnd/970924/001741.html, 24,  March 1999.

 "Pulitzer Prize Winners-1946 Journalism: Editorial Writing."Available
http://www.pulitzer.org/archive/database/1946.html, 24 March 1999.

 "University of Southern Mississippi:  McCain Library and Archives: Manuscript

Collection."Available http://www.lib.usm.edu/archives/m005.htm, 23 March 1999.

Waldron, Ann. Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist, Chapel Hill:
Algonquin Books, 1993.

"But whatever endangers freedom of speech and of the press directly endangers every other advantage of a free society."

Hodding Carter  Where Main Street Meets the River

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Last updated January 2008
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