Sometimes a life full of adventure seems to happen accidentally rather than through intense planning. Such is the case of the remarkable experiences of Bill Carter, a Rector boy who didn’t set out to become a Secret Service agent, attorney and tour director for the Rolling Stones, producer for the Gaither Family gospel music organization and friend and adviser to the famous, but it happened anyway.Carter was a guest Monday night on a WKNO-TV interview in Memphis and he tried to cram a lifetime of experiences into a one-hour time frame. That is difficult to do when one considers all he has done, but he did his best and the show was fascinating.
He also was promoting his new book, “Get Carter,” which tells his life story from the perspective of someone who always seemed to have what it took to get the difficult job done – thus the title.
Those not personally familiar with the advantages of growing up in a small town in Northeast Arkansas may not understand Carter’s belief that it was such a background that led to success. But one could sense that he has a “grounded” personality as he told his story, and there is a lack of arrogance and pretentiousness that comes through when one listens to him. He remains down-to-earth, clearly a small-town Arkansas trait.
Carter opened the interview by reminiscing about his early days in Rector, growing up as the son of parents who were far from wealthy. He said that, at the time, he had some resentment about his situation, but he doesn’t regret that background now.
Humorously, he said his early goal in life was to move to Detroit, get a job in an auto factory and triumphantly drive a new car back to Rector, something he had seen other young men do over the years.
Carter never intended to join the Secret Service, but took an examination as an afterthought when attending a testing session with his brother in Dallas. Later, out of the blue, he got a call offering him a chance to join the Secret Service. He served during the fateful 1963 period when President John Kennedy was assassinated.
We always have doubted that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but must admit that Carter is quite convincing in giving his reasons why he believes the Warren Commission accurately came to that conclusion.
His involvement with the investigation is a highlight of his career and made for an interesting segment in the television interview and in the book.
Later, Carter made quite a career shift to become the attorney for the Rolling Stones, one of the most controversial rock music groups in history. He told how he used his experience “and common sense” to deal with a State Department ruling that the Stones could not tour in the United States because of the perceived threat to American young people.
Carter later made quite a sideways shift to become a producer for the Gaither Family gospel music organization, prompting Bill Gaither to note he was “moving in the right direction” after his time spent with the Rolling Stones.
That association led to his heavy involvement in a documentary on Elvis Presley and gospel music, as well as a close association with evangelist Billy Graham, including the making of another documentary.
“If I never do anything else in life,” Carter writes in his book, “I’ll always be grateful that I was given the opportunity to be involved in the making of this documentary. My mother never missed watching Billy Graham when he was on TV, so I have admired him my entire adult life but never more so than after delving into the history of his life and ministry.”
During the television interview, Carter said he once asked former Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus for some advice about a career change. He said the governor told him he had no idea what he (Carter) should do and it would be presumptuous to give him advice. Faubus said when he was faced with a decision he returned to his Madison County roots and sat on a log in the woods and asked God for guidance. Carter did just that at the time, returning to Rector and meditating under a pecan tree in his parent’í back yard.
Carter said he never has “stressed out” about any major decision in his life, preferring to take the advice offered by Gov. Faubus , and it has worked out. The result has been a life of excitement and intrigue and association with some of the most dynamic personalities of this era – a fascinating life that had its basic roots right here in rural Arkansas.
–Ron E. Kemp, Publisher, Clay County Times Democrat
Reprinted with permission