Carter, Pamela Lynn

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Pamela Lynn Carter


Attorney, business executive

Pamela Lynn Carter is a business executive, attorney, and former social worker whose varied career has included positions in corporate management, state government, private law practice, and social services administration. Inspired by a childhood meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Carter sought throughout her career to advance her clients' rights in ways that strengthened the community overall. She was elected attorney general of the state of Indiana in 1992, making her the first African-American woman in the United States to hold that position.

Carter was born Pamela Lynn Fanning on August 20, 1949, in the southwestern Michigan town of South Haven, and spent part of her childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her father was Roscoe Hollis Fanning and her mother was Dorothy Elizabeth Hadley Fanning. Listening to the stories of her parents and grandfather, Carter learned about the often-painful history of African Americans in the United States, and how civil rights workers had fought to change things through the court system. As a girl she was encouraged to build a career in public service when she met Dr. King, who inspired her to do the best she could to build a better world.

Carter attended the University of Detroit, graduating with honors in 1971. That year she also married Michael Anthony Carter. She entered graduate school at the University of Michigan and earned a master's degree in social work in 1973. She began working at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor as a research analyst and treatment director, coordinating client care. In 1975 she continued her social work career as executive director of the Mental Health Center for Women and Children.

During the early 1980s Carter decided to continue her education by entering law school at Indiana University. She obtained a law degree in 1984 and went to work for the legal services department of the United Auto Workers Union at General Motors in Indianapolis. In 1987 she got a job with the state of Indiana, first as a securities attorney, dealing with financial matters for the Indiana Secretary of State, then as executive assistant for the state Department of Health and Human Services. Her work attracted the notice of Indiana governor Evan Bayh, and, in 1989 he hired Carter to be his deputy chief of staff.

She worked in the governor's office until 1992, when she left public life to return to private practice with Baker and Daniels, a law firm that specialized in health-related law. After only a short time in private practice, however, Carter made a history-making decision. She decided to run for the office of Indiana attorney general. Carter, a Democrat, ran a campaign that promised new energy and excellence in the attorney general's office. Though her Republican opponent appealed to racist fears and prejudice to persuade voters not to choose Carter, she won the election with fifty-two percent of the vote. She became not only the first African-American woman attorney general in the United States and the first woman to hold the job in the state of Indiana, but she was also the first Democrat to be Indiana attorney general since the mid-1960s. One of her first acts upon her election was to increase the number of women and people of color employed in the attorney general's office.

During her four years in office, Carter worked hard to represent the citizens of Indiana, winning more cases in the U.S. Supreme Court than any other attorney general in the nation. She described her view of the attorney general's office in a 1994 interview with Bryan Thompson of the Indianapolis Recorder: "Actually, we are the largest law firm in the state whose mission is to protect the interest of all citizens in Indiana."

As the state's chief lawyer, Carter helped to initiate a victims' bill of rights to protect those who had been injured by criminal acts and a "rape shield" law to protect the victims of rape from personal attack during the prosecution of rapists. She also worked to protect consumers by strengthening prosecution of consumer fraud. Always passionately dedicated to health issues, she launched an important investigation into patient abuse in Indiana hospitals. In 1993 Carter helped found Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings through Attorneys, Children and Educators), a conflict resolution organization that helped parents, youth, and educators build mediation skills and find nonviolent ways to settle disputes.

As her term of service drew to a close, Carter decided not to pursue reelection. In 1997 she served as parliamentarian for the Indiana House of Representatives, helping settle disputes over rules of procedure. She was the first woman and the first African American to hold the position. The same year, Carter returned to private practice, joining the Indianapolis firm Johnson, Smith, Pence, Densborn, Wright & Heath, where she became a partner and chair of the economic development practice group. She remained at Johnson Smith for a year, working to help businesses that were moving to Indiana negotiate state regulations and make positive connections within local communities.

In 1998 Carter received an attractive job offer to become vice president and general corporate counsel at Cummins Filtration, an international company that made filtration and exhaust products for diesel and gas powered engines. Carter looked forward to the challenge of using her legal skills on a global level. In addition, she could continue to support ordinary citizens by working to develop good community relations and environmental policies for Cummins. She soon became vice president and general manager for Cummins's operations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, a job that required her to live abroad and travel extensively. In 2005 she returned to the United States to assume the position of president of the company's global distribution system, becoming the first female company president in the filtration industry.

At a Glance …

Born Pamela Lynn Fanning on August 20, 1949, in South Haven, MI; daughter of Dorothy Elizabeth Hadley Fanning and Roscoe Hollis Fanning; married Michael Anthony Carter, August 21, 1971; two children. Politics: Democrat. Education: University of Detroit, AB, 1971; University of Michigan, MSW, 1973; Indiana University School of Law, JD, 1984.

Career: University of Michigan School of Public Health, research analyst and treatment director, 1973-75; Mental Health Center for Women and Children, executive director, 1975-77; United Auto Workers-General Motors Legal Services, consumer litigation attorney, 1984-87; Office of the Indiana Secretary of State, securities attorney; Indiana Department of Health and Human Services, executive assistant, 1987-89; Office of Governor Evan Bayh, deputy chief of staff, 1989-92; Baker and Daniels, private practice attorney, 1992-93; State of Indiana, Attorney General, 1993-97; Johnson, Smith, Pence, Densborn, Wright & Heath, partner and economic development practice group chair, 1997-98; Cummins Engine Company, vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, 1998-99; Cummins Filtration, vice president general manager for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, 1999-2005, president, 2005—.

Selected memberships: National Bar Association; Indiana Bar Association; Coalition of 100 Black Women; Society of Attorneys General Emeritus.

Selected awards: Outstanding Service Award, Indiana Perinatal Association, 1991; Drum Major for Justice Award, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 1993; "100 Most Influential Black Americans and Organization Leaders" Ebony magazine, 1993; Antoinette Dakin Leach Award, Indianapolis Bar Association, 1996.

Addresses: Cummins Inc. Corporate Headquarters, 500 Jackson St., Columbus, IN 47202-3005.

Throughout her work at Cummins, Carter has continued her commitment to improving diversity, maintaining that strong business practices require creating an inclusive working environment with men and women from a variety of racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.



Recorder (Indianapolis, IN), May 1, 1993, p. A2; February 19, 1994, p. A1; August 13, 1994, p. B7; January 11, 1997, p. A1.


"Ascending to Leadership: Pamela Carter, Cummins Engine Company," Diversity & the Bar, August 1999, (accessed March 9, 2008).

"Pamela Carter," Forbes, (accessed March 24, 2008).

"Pamela Carter Named New President of Fleetguard," Cummins Filtration, May 23, 2005, (accessed March 9, 2008).

"Pamela Carter," Nashville Chamber of Commerce, (accessed March 9, 2008).

—Tina Gianoulis