Bill Carter was the man to get when tough problem arose

By Phil Hudgins

If Bill Carter were looking for a job, imagine his résumé:

Secret Service agent: Served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson; stood sentry at Kennedy’s grave.

Investigator: Served on the Warren Commission following the assassination of President Kennedy; interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald’s widow, Marina, and Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby.

Criminal lawyer: Defended some pretty rough dudes.

Entertainment lawyer: Negotiated a deal with the U.S. government to allow the Rolling Stones to entertain in the United States in 1975; hired by former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa; managed such stars as Tanya Tucker, Rodney Crowell and Reba McEntire; produces TV show for Christian music greats Bill and Gloria Gaither.

Persuader: Bullied a Mexican undertaker into releasing the body of actor Steve McQueen, who died in Mexico of a heart attack following surgery.

These are just a few of Billy Neal Carter’s job experiences. He has documented them all in his new book, “Get Carter: Backstage in History from JFK’s Assassination to The Rolling Stones” (Fine’s Creek Publishing). But when I asked him in a telephone conversation what he wants to be remembered for, he didn’t mention his tough negotiations or his work with famous and infamous people. He wants to be remembered as the executive producer of the Billy Graham documentary he just completed.

“I think that documentary will certainly outlive me and probably my children and grandchildren,” Carter, 70, said. “He (Graham) is going to go down as one of the great spiritual leaders of all time.”

He indicated that the very people who yelled “Get Carter” to come and help probably couldn’t get Carter today. He’s a changed man. “The person I am now,” he said in his book, “could never have negotiated the Steve McQueen deal or participated in some of the other showdowns I was involved in over the years.”

But that’s not the Bill Carter whom Judi Turner knows. Turner, co-author of “Get Carter,” said in an e-mail message: “He does not believe in the word ‘can’t’ and I learned early in the game NEVER, EVER to argue with him because he is a master manipulator, and he just wants someone to argue so he can clean their plate.”

Turner, a veteran Nashville publicist, was speaking affectionately, of course. She and Carter are buddies. She has gotten publicity jobs because of him. And it was she who encouraged Carter to continue writing his book, which he set out to do only for his two daughters.

This book has been a lot of work, Carter said from his home near Nashville. Six years of work. And the Billy Graham documentary, his favorite project, took almost that long. (The documentary, produced by the Gaither company, is scheduled to air on PBS during Easter week and later on The Biography Channel.)

Carter’s assistant said she wished he could start each day watching a Billy Graham video. It puts him in a good mood.

You’ll need to read the book to find out what Carter was like in other moods.

Reprinted with permission