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LEONARD C. CARTER FAMILY PAPERS, RG1080, 1903-1990

Biographical Sketch


Henry B. Carter and family @1900

The Carter family has long been prominent in Lakeland and Polk County. Henry B. Carter (pictured with his family above @1900) purchased his brother's interest in a lumber and turpentine mill near Lakeland in 1905 and developed it into one of the largest lumber mills in the state and the corner stone of his vast holdings in the Florida lumber industry in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Carter demonstrated his commitment to Lakeland when, in 1904, he built a magnificent home facing Lake Morton. The house was later purchased and moved to an area eight miles south of its original location and gained fame as the home of country music stars, Tammy Wynette and George Jones. In 1919, Carter purchased the Kibler Hotel in the center of Lakeland from its original owners and renamed it the Hotel Thelma in honor of his daughter. Although Carter died in an automobile accident in 1924, the Hotel Thelma continued to be owned and operated by the Carter family until it was closed and torn down in 1962.

Leonard C. Carter, Jr., the grandson of Henry B. Carter, was born in Lakeland on February 1, 1927. He was the son of Leonard C. and Rose Templeton Carter. The young Carter attended local schools in Lakeland and graduated from Lakeland High School in 1944. While playing football at Lakeland High, Carter sustained a broken left arm which became infected and had to be amputated.

This disability did not slow Carter at all, as he attended Florida Southern College, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina in 1948 and a law degree from the University of Florida in 1952. Upon his return to Lakeland, he was named Assistant Polk County Solicitor and later became a partner in the Lakeland law firm of Love, Carter, and Bronson.

Carter's interests quickly expanded beyond the practice of law into real estate, land development, the citrus industry, and politics. He was president of Carter Realty, a local firm involved in commercial real estate and residential development. He owned or had an interest in a number of hotels and restaurants in Lakeland and Orlando and was the owner of the Carter Fruit Company, a citrus growing and packing company. His brief stint as Assistant Polk County Solicitor, apparently whetted Carter's appetite for politics. In 1956, he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida's seventh district. Though he ran a strong campaign, Carter lost to the incumbent in the Democratic primary.

When not engaged in his many business, legal, and political pursuits, Carter was an avid student of history and amateur historian. He produced a number of article length pieces on a variety of local history topics and a book length manuscript on the sinking of the Titanic. Some of his local history pieces were published by local historical societies. Despite his best efforts, however, he was unable to find a publisher for the Titanic manuscript.

Leonard C. Carter, Jr. died in Lakeland in 1990.