Former S.C. House Speaker Rex Carter died Monday at his Greenville home. He was 88.
The Honea Path native and longtime Greenville resident was a member of the General Assembly from 1953 to 1980. The lifelong Democrat was elected House speaker in 1973, succeeding the legendary Sol Blatt, who had held the post for 22 years. Carter was speaker for seven years.
“Our state is better off because Rex was at the helm,” said current House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
Carter was credited with developing the House’s first professional research staff, starting regular orientation sessions for new members and bringing computerized information into the State House.
Former Gov. Dick Riley said Carter was a mentor and a champion for his legislative proposals. “We shared the same solid support for public education and economic development,” the Greenville Democrat said.
Former House Speaker David Wilkins, a Greenville Republican who succeeded Carter in the House, said he brought “grace and charm to public service.”
“To me and everyone who served with him from either political party, Rex was a real gentleman, very kind and considerate of others,” said Wilkins. “He was a consensus-builder and had a wonderful personality that suited him well in both his governmental service and his successful law practice.”
S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, a former lawmaker, said Carter helped lead the “governmental modernization in South Carolina.”
“Slight in stature but towering in leadership, a mighty oak has fallen,” she said.
Former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, also a Greenville Democrat, said he and Carter would talk about issues as they drove to Columbia together while they served in the General Assembly.
“I admired him, too, for the total devotion he gave to his wife, Floride, his children and grandchildren,” Theodore said. “Rex lived a balanced, happy life. We should all be as lucky. I loved him as a brother.”
Carter graduated from Parker High School, Erskine College and the University of South Carolina law school. During World War II, he was in the Coast Guard.
Carter started the law firm of Carter, Smith, Merriam & Traxler after graduating from USC in 1952 and continued as a senior partner until his death.
Survivors include his wife, Floride Gulledge Carter; three children; and five grandchildren.