Carter, Lisle C.

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Lisle C. Carter

Lawyer, federal government official, college president

The high-level public positions held by Lisle C. Carter Jr. exemplify the essence of his career, which spans more than sixty years. Carter became the first African American to serve in several capacities throughout his career. His character and intelligence drew many local and federal government positions to him. Through high-level public service, Carter helped to shape policies that affect the health, education, and welfare of our nation. Carter held appointments in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and served as chancellor and president at two black universities.

Lisle C. Carter Jr., an only child, was born on November 18, 1926 in Manhattan, New York to Lisle and Eunice Hunton Carter. His father was a native of Barbados, British West Indies, and practiced dentistry in New Jersey until his death in 1963. Carter's mother, who died in 1970, was dedicated to political activism and service. She was the first African American woman to serve as a prosecutor in 1935. Carter spent his early years at boarding school in Barbados and graduated from high school at age fifteen. He attended Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, New York for two years and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1945 with a B.S. degree in business administration. Following graduation, Carter served in the U.S. Army. He graduated with a law degree from St. John's University, Brooklyn, New York in 1951. Carter and his wife Emily had five children.

Carter became executive director of the Washington Urban League in 1951 and served until 1953. He became chief council for the Urban League of Greater New York in 1957 and remained there for two years. Carter returned to Washington in 1961 where he served as deputy assistant secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in the Kennedy administration. Subsequently, President Johnson appointed Carter to the position of assistant secretary of HEW. Carter's appointments were significant. Involvement in cabinet action gave him a chance to participate at the highest level in policy. Doing so, Carter followed his mother's footsteps of political activism. In both administrations, Carter's responsibilities included researching and providing analyses of important social issues. As the deputy assistant secretary, Carter reported to the assistant secretary. However, as assistant secretary of HEW, he made recommendations directly to the secretary. Several pubic policies were established during Carter's appointments that are paramount to the general welfare of U.S. citizens.

In 1965, the U.S. Congress adopted the Medicare and Medicaid health programs and established a separate Department of Education, a development to which Carter contributed. Furthermore, according to Gerald Britten, a former assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in HEW, several organizational changes were made in the assistant secretary's office, such as the creation of an office particularly to help plan research and evaluation and an office to address social service policy. The Jimmy Carter administration in 1979 appointed Lisle Carter to the president's commission on pension policy. In addition Carter was named a part-time senior advisor to the secretary of the new U.S. Department of Education. One of his principle responsibilities was to assist the new secretary in the review and selection of candidates to fill positions created by the establishment of the new department. Another major responsibility was to help make the transition from an education department within HEW to its separate departmental status.

Before moving to Georgia in 1974 to accept the position of chancellor at the Atlanta University Center, Carter was a professor of public policy and a vice president at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. By the time Carter accepted the position of chancellor of a consortium of six predominately black colleges, he had more than ten years experience in public policy and administration.

By 1968, the District of Columbia had five public institutions of higher learning: Georgetown University, Howard University, D.C. Teacher's College, Federal City College, and Washington Technical Institute. Then the D.C. City Council passed a bill that was authorized by Congress to merge the two colleges and the institute into one university, namely the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). The plan was for one university to offer teacher education, general liberal arts, and technical education. In 1977, Carter assumed the position of president with a five-year contract.

The main responsibility of the new president was to facilitate the merger of three institutions into one municipally funded university that emphasized both liberal arts and vocational training. Newspapers reported on the difficulties involved. For example, Teacher's College offered a four-year curriculum. Federal City offered a two-year liberal arts program. Washington Technical also offered a two-year program, but the curriculum was designed to make students job-ready. The merger brought cutbacks in employees. Some students feared the end of the open enrollment policies. Carter had to streamline the curriculum. For 1977–78, with a conjoined total of approximately 15,000 students, each institution retained its curriculum. Carter hired consultants who formed several committees to develop a plan to incorporate the three curriculums and strengthen the technical program. Carter submitted an acceptable plan to the trustees as required by the fall of 1978. In December 1979, the UDC won accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Also under Carter's leadership, UDC opened a restored $4.2 million library on December 11, 1980. Carter felt that he had laid the foundation for the new university by 1980 and, choosing not to remain at the university for the long-term, announced his plans to step down from his post upon expiration of his contract in 1982.

In the meantime, Carter accepted a part-time position as senior advisor to the new U.S. Department of Education in December 1979, declining the White House offer to become undersecretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As senior advisor, Carter advised the secretary on policy and helped evaluate candidates for high-level jobs in the new department.

In 1981 Carter was appointed chairman of the Executive Committee of the United Way of America. While he joined the staff in 1981, Carter had served on the long range planning committee since 1975. A subcommittee which he chaired consisting of fifteen volunteers developed strategies for local offices to serve and support health and social service agencies. Carter resigned from the United Way in 1991. In 1995, he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of HEW, and in 2001 he was a member of the Roundtable on Democracy Research Public Agenda. Carter has served on the Children's Defense Fund, Pension Rights Center, Aspen Institute, and New York Department of Corrections. Carter has also written several articles.


Born in Manhattan, New York on November 18
Attends Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, New York
Earns B.S. from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Earns L.L.B. from St. John's College, Brooklyn, New York
Serves as deputy assistant secretary, Housing, Education, and Welfare (HEW)
Serves as assistant secretary, HEW
Serves as chancellor to the Atlanta University Center
Serves as president of University of the District of Columbia
Serves as senior advisor in U.S. Department of Education
Joins staff of United Way of America
Serves as special assistant to the secretary, HEW
Serves as member of Roundtable on Democracy Research Public Agenda



Bowman, LaBarbara. "Council Passes University Bill." Washington Post, 30 July 1975.

Carter, Lisle C, Jr. "UDC: Its Importance, Its Needs." Washington Post, 13 October 1985.

―――――― "Management of Our Difficult Financial Situation." Washington Post, 21 May 1980.

Feinberg, Lawrence. "Atlanta Educator Named to Head University of D.C." Washington Post, 30 July 1977.

―――――" City U Head Seeks to Keep Politics at Bay." Washington Post, 2 August 1977.

――――― "Faculty's Anxiety Stirs Unrest at UDC." Washington Post, 12 February 1978.

――――― "Head of UDC Trustees Defends Payment on President's Behalf." Washington Post, 18 February 1978.

Keary, Jim. "Lawyer says warning didn't slow acrimony." Washington Times, 17 March 1995.

Valentine, Paul W. "UDC President Offered No. 2 Post in Education." Washington Post, 6 December 1979.

Weil, Martin. "Lisle C. Carter to Quit Post as UDC President." Washington Post, 19 December 1980.

Whitaker, Joseph D. "Speaker Calls University Symbol of Hope for Poor." Washington Post, 6 October 1978.

Wright, Chapin. "Carter Named to United Way Committee." Washington Post, 24 August 1981.


Britten, Gerald. "Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation: Brief History." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Accessed 27 January 2006).

                                                  Shelhea C. Owens

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Carter, Lisle C.

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