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Arthur Michael Carter III, 1940-2013

Arthur Michael Carter III

Arthur Michael Carter III

In loving memory, we celebrate the life of Arthur Michael Carter III, born in Detroit on April 27, 1940 as the first-born son of Arthur Carter, Jr. of Milledgeville, Ga., and Alberta (Wright) Carter of Memphis, Tenn. As part of the Great Migration of African Americans from the southern U.S. to northern states in search of opportunity, Art’s father moved to Detroit from Georgia to seek a factory job at Chrysler and to start a family. Art’s parents met in Detroit where they married and raised three sons.

From his parents, Art learned the value of education and hard work as the keys to success in life. He grew up on the Lower East Side of Detroit where he graduated from Eastern High School, the alma mater of both his mother and his godmother, former Detroit City Council President Erma L. Henderson. Known as “Michael” by many family members and friends, Art led by example even in high school where he was recognized for his leadership and public speaking abilities. After Eastern High School, he enrolled at Wayne State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in special education (1962), a master’s degree in guidance and counseling (1964), and a doctorate in counseling and education (1971).

Art also learned the value of political activism at an early age. His mother, a former president of the Young Republicans club at Eastern High School, instilled in him the importance of not just having a vote, but being actively involved in the political process. A child of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, who was affected deeply by the tumult of the times and the work of civil rights giants like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Roberson and Malcolm X, he became a community leader and an active member of the NAACP. Art’s first run at public office in Detroit came in 1962 when he won a seat as a precinct delegate. He later challenged for a seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1964, but lost a close race by 44 votes. While that run proved unsuccessful, the political lessons learned served him well. He went on to serve as campaign manager for Erma Henderson’s first successful run for Detroit City Council in 1972, when she made history as the first African American woman to win a seat on the City Council. Art’s work with Henderson and his passion for service led him to seek office once again in 1975 when he ran for and won a seat on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners. He served with distinction on the Commission from 1974-89, including serving as its chairman from 1987-89.

Art will be remembered as a son of Detroit whose entire life was devoted to the service of its people, but his true passion was education. He was the consummate educator at every level. From working as a play leader on city of Detroit playgrounds to serving as a dean at Wayne County Community College, Art believed in the potential of our young people and worked tirelessly to help them realize it. He spent 37 years with the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) where he rose to become deputy superintendent and a lobbyist for the district. In 2003, after leaving DPS, Art accepted an appointment to be the director of the Department of Children & Family Services where he was responsible for all operations and policy related to children and family services in Wayne County. These responsibilities included oversight of the juvenile detention facility, alternative workforce program and juvenile prevention programs. In 2005, Art became superintendent of the Highland Park Public Schools where he served for five years. Always an “outside the box” visionary, Art was also the founder and force behind both the African Heritage Cultural Center (a Detroit Public School and museum) and the unique Sankore’ Marine Immersion Academy, a specialized marine science-based charter school that exposed children of Wayne County to the many natural resources in the public waters of the state of Michigan, including the Detroit River.

Art was baptized at his family’s church, the historic Second Baptist Church of Detroit, on May 4, 1947 where he remained a member until death. Art served his church proudly in many different capacities including serving as the archivist for the church’s Historical Committee, enthusiastically giving tours to groups who wanted to learn about the rich history of Second Baptist including its role in the Underground Railroad during slavery. Art’s love of history also extended to his own family genealogy that he meticulously documented for the benefit of current and future generations of his family tree. He also served as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Art was heavily involved at the time of his death with the “Wolverine Campus Project,” an effort to develop an education- and employment-focused alternative to prison offenders convicted of felonies in Michigan. While we will miss Art’s passion and his leadership in the city of Detroit, the effort to launch the Wolverine Campus Project continues as an example of Art’s legacy and vision for a better future for the city of Detroit and its citizens.

Art loved his family dearly and is survived by his beloved wife, Karen Martin-Carter; four children: Sheala D. Smith, Arthur M. Carter IV (Mickey), Malcolm S. Carter and John A. Carter; daughter-in-law, Dr. Marya Howell-Carter; five grandchildren: Kris A. Smith, Sydney E. Carter, Spencer T. Carter, Madison L. Carter and Reagan M. Carter; two great-grandchildren, Che’la M. Smith and Krisztian N. Smith; brother, Gregory P. Carter; a niece, Carlita A. Carr; and several other relatives and friends.

As an expression of sympathy, the family suggests that donations be made in memory of Dr. Arthur M. Carter III, to the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Michigan Chapter, 20300 Civic Center Dr., Ste. 100, Southfield, MI 48076 (http:/ /


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