Joe Carter Sr.: The father behind a major-league hero and a prolific Oklahoma City family

COMMENTARY — When Joe Carter Sr. died last week, he left behind a family that featured 46 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren. They, along with his involvement in his community, are as much a part of his legacy as a name that will go down in baseball history.
by Jenni Carlson Published: September 25, 2012
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photo - Former major league baseball player Joe Carter, Jr., is hugged after the funeral.  About 400 family and friends gathered inside the Millwood High School Fieldhouse on  Tuesday,  Sep, 25, 2012, to honor the life and say farewell to Joseph D. Carter, Sr. at a funeral service that was sentimental and touching, but also full of joy and laughter. Carter is survived by a wife and their 11 children as well as 46 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.
Former major league baseball player Joe Carter, Jr., is hugged after the funeral. About 400 family and friends gathered inside the Millwood High School Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Sep, 25, 2012, to honor the life and say farewell to Joseph D. Carter, Sr. at a funeral service that was sentimental and touching, but also full of joy and laughter. Carter is survived by a wife and their 11 children as well as 46 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.

A high school gymnasium seems an unlikely place for a funeral.

For Joseph David Carter, it was perfect.

He followed his children to gyms and fields and tracks all over the state when they were growing up. If they were practicing, he was loading them up in his pickup and taking them. If they were playing, he was going.

The Carters became a legacy at Millwood High School and the first family of Oklahoma City sports.

Joe Carter Jr. was the household name, spending almost two decades in Major League Baseball and hitting that memorable walk-off home run to clinch the 1993 World Series for Toronto, but many of his brothers and sisters were standouts, too. They won state titles. They set high standards.

The legacy began with the man known as Mr. Carter.

He died Thursday at the age of 82.

“Your dad set the example,” Millwood girls basketball coach Arnelia Spears told the family Monday inside the school's gym.

Truth be told, Mr. Carter should be an example to all.

He grew up in a time of segregation, but he refused to let anything hold him back. He became a three-sport standout at Booker T. Washington High in El Reno, then became one of the first blacks to own his own Conoco service station.

He was a self-made man.

The thing is, Mr. Carter was quick to help others, too.

“He was always trying to do for somebody,” his son Fred said.

He'd give a couple extra bucks to the pastor for gas money. He'd leave an envelope for special offerings at church.

But the ones he did for the most were his children.

Mr. Carter and his wife, Athelene, had a dozen children. Clarence. Charles. Charlette. Darlene. Patricia. Lenise. Carolyn. Joe Jr. Larry. Fred. Teresa. And one baby who was stillborn.

Charlie Greene has known the family since the 60s. He was a coach and PE teacher at Moon Junior High when the oldest boys, Clarence and Charles, were in school there.

Six or eight years later, Greene moved to Millwood as an assistant principal.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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