Bill left his home in Rector, Arkansas immediately after graduating from high school, heading for a railroad job in St. Louis. His supervisor wanted to send him to college, but Bill joined the Air Force instead. After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1953-57, he entered Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, eventually earning a B.S. degree in economics. He later attended law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
In 1962, Carter entered the U.S. Secret Service and worked as a special agent during the Kennedy administration. Ironically, he was completing his advanced training in Washington the day Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. He was immediately assigned to President Johnson during the four days of the funeral, but he also accompanied the slain President’s body to the Capitol, the funeral and Arlington Cemetery. On Thanksgiving day 1963, he was assigned to Dallas as part of the team of federal agents investigating the assassination, even accompanying Lee Oswald’s family to testify before the Warren Commission. He served during the early part of the Johnson administration, and was assigned to the White House detail briefly before resigning in 1966 to return to the University of Arkansas Law School, where he obtained his degree in 1967.
The young attorney established a practice in Little Rock, specializing in civil and criminal law. A political activist in Arkansas, Carter was appointed to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Academy Commission in 1969 by Republican Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. In that position, which he held until 1972, he co-authored a book on criminal procedures and spoke to law enforcement officials throughout the state.
In 1969, Carter became involved with Memphis entrepreneur Fred Smith and his then-fledgling Federal Express and worked with the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington for three years while establishing that company. It was during this time, through political contacts, that Carter made one of the most propitious associations of his life, and the one which would, ultimately, seal his already skyrocketing reputation.
For it was in 1973 that powerful Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Mills asked for Carter’s assistance with a sticky immigration matter involving the biggest stars in rock ‘n’ roll music. This was to be a career builder. His new client was the Rolling Stones. The Stones had been banned from ever appearing in the United States after the riots which surrounded their 1972 U.S. concert tour, and the State Department had taken administrative action against them, alleging they advocated civil disobedience, open drug use and were a menace to the youth of America.
Although the Stones’ representatives had been unable to get the State Department to budge from their position, Carter entered a proposal on behalf of the Stones which included a crowd control plan, patterned after a Secret Service presidential visit advance plan. In 1974, the State Department reversed its decision on the condition that Carter personally implement the plan for the Stones’ 1975 tour of the U.S. The security used on that tour became a role model for the music industry. His involvement also included the Stones’ 1978 and 1981 tours. Carter’s involvement in another Rolling Stones’ benchmark-Keith Richards’ arrest for heroin trafficking in Canada- is also entertainingly detailed in Flippo’s book, “On The Road With The Rolling Stones”. Carter continued his representation of the Stones, particularly Keith Richards, until 1990. To learn more about Bill’s relationship to the Rolling Stones, see Keith Richards’ best selling autobiography “Life” and Chet Flippo’s book “On the Road with the Rolling Stones, Twenty Years of Lipstick, Handcuffs, and Chemicals“.
Carter’s negotiating skills were again put to the test when actor Steve McQueen died in Mexico in 1980, and the Mexican authorities refused to release the body. Carter intervened, and within six hours the body was returned to the U.S. for burial. During 1980, Carter and prominent Little Rock attorney, William R. Wilson, also co-managed Senator Ted Kennedy’s presidential campaign in Arkansas.
Because his involvement in the music industry had increased to such a degree, and with the encouragement of producer Jerry Crutchfield, Carter decided to open a Nashville law office in 1981. In 1983, Carter was approached by representatives of rocker David Bowie to negotiate an HBO special and book publishing deal, which resulted in Carter serving as executive-in-charge of Bowie’s Serious Moonlight show on HBO.He also served as executive producer of the Asia In Asia live MTV special in 1983, the first international live broadcast of a music show.
It was also in 1983 that fate again intervened in Carter’s career, and it took another unexpected turn. That year, he began representing Reba McEntire, and the next year she asked him to serve as her personal manager. Carter guided the redhead through the five most crucial and groundbreaking years of her career, leading her eventually into international superstardom. Over the next 17 years, he successfully represented such country music luminaries as Lonestar, Waylon Jennings, Lari White, Rodney Crowell, Carlene Carter, Shenandoah, Jo-El Sonnier, Rick Vincent, Philip Claypool, J.P. Pennington, Tim Ryan, and TV/radio personality Ralph Emery.
In 1995, Carter was responsible for establishing the Gaither Gospel Hour on TNN He continues to serve as executive producer on the majority of the multi-award-winning Gaither Homecoming specials on more than a dozen commercial networks and PBS. Gaither Television Productions has produced more than six dozen Homecoming videos, as well as seven country music Homecoming-style specials, an Elvis Presley gospel collection, a Billy Graham Music Homecoming, and a Gospel Bluegrass Homecoming special.
His memoirs, a book chronicling many of his life’s stories and titled, “Get Carter: Backstage in History from JFK’s Assassination to the Rolling Stones” was published by Fines Creek Publishers in early 2006. Later that year, after recognizing the need to give back to the community in which they were reared, Carter and his former classmate, retired Army General George Barker, co-founded the Rector High School Helping Hands Foundation, a non-profit that provides short-term financial assistance to low-income students in the Rector school system. Learn more at www.rhshelpinghands.org .
In 2011, Carter helped create the first annual Johnny Cash Music Festival to raise funds for the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Restoration in Dyess, Arkansas, and continues to serve as producer of the concert. In October of that same year, Carter was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from Arkansas State University, and in 2013 he received the prestigious Crystal Award from the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism for his production of The Johnny Cash Music Festival. Also in 2013, Carter was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
Carter and his wife, Marlow, live outside Nashville. He has two daughters, both of whom reside in Nashville-Julia Carter Hansen, the mother of two children, Carter and Olivia, and Joanna Carter, VP, Creative Services/Video Production, Universal Music Group, Nashville.