Former S.C. House Speaker Rex Carter died Monday at his Greenville home. He was 88.
The Honea Path native and long-time Greenville resident served in the General Assembly from 1953 to 1980. The life-long Democrat was elected House Speaker in 1973, succeeding Sol Blatt who held the post for the previous 22 years. Mr. Carter was speaker for seven years.
"Our state is better off because Rex was at the helm," current House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said.
Mr. 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 called Mr. Carter a mentor and a champion for his legislative measures.
"We shared the same solid support for public education and economic development," the Democrat said.
Former House Speaker David Wilkins, a Republican who succeeded Mr. 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," Wilkins said. "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 Mr. 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 said he and Mr. Carter would speak 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."
Mr. Carter graduated from Parker High School, Erskine College and the University of South Carolina law school. He served with the Coast Guard during World War II.
He started the law firm of Carter, Smith, Merriam & Traxler after graduating from USC in 1952 and continued as a senior partner until his death.
Surviving are his wife, Floride Gulledge Carter; three children -- Lucy Ault, Kim Johnson and Rex Carter Jr.; and five grandchildren.
Visitation will be at the residence on 5-7 p.m. Wednesday. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Thursday at Augusta Road Baptist Church. The burial will be private.
Memorials can be made to Augusta Road Baptist Church, 1823 Augusta Road, Greenville, SC 29605.