Asa Earl Carter

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Asa Earl Carter (aka Forrest Carter)

Asa Earl Carter (September 4, 1925June 7, 1979) also known as Ace Carter was a political speechwriter, politician, Ku Klux Klan leader, and author of Western novels. He wrote Governor George Wallace of Alabama famed inaugural speech “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever". Using the pen name Forrest Carter, he published several Western novels including Gone to Texas which was made into the 1976 film The Outlaw Josey Wales.

As Forrest Carter he also faked an autobiography, The Education of Little Tree, in which he portrays himself as having been orphaned into the care of Cherokee grandparents. The publisher's remarks in the original edition describe him (inaccurately) as "Storyteller in Council" to the Cherokee Nation, but in 1976, as the book became a huge success and appering on the top of The New York Times booklist, Forrest Carter was revealed to be Asa Earl Carter.

Early life and political career

Asa Carter was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1925, the eldest of four children. He was raised in nearby Oxford, Alabama by his parents, Ralph and Hermione Carter, both of whom lived into Carter's adulthood.

Carter served in the United States Navy during World War II and attended the University of Colorado. After the war, he married India Thelma Walker. The couple had four children and settled in Birmingham, Alabama.

Asa Carter was an active participant in the White Citizens' Council becoming the executive secretary of the North Alabama Citizens’ Council. He was expelled from that organization and formed a more radical group he named the Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy.

He was a radio commentator and became a speechwriter for governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace. Carter is credited for writing Wallace’s 1962 inaugural speech containing the famous line, In the name of the greatest people that ever tread the earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say: Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!.[1]

Although Carter claimed to be part Cherokee, he ran for governor of Alabama in 1970 on a pro-white, anti-intergration platform. However, he came in last of five candidates, winning only 1.51% of the vote in an election comfortably won by George Wallace.

Literary career and death

After losing the election, Carter relocated to Florida and then Texas, where he reinvented himself and began his career as a novelist. He distanced himself from his past, began to call his sons "nephews" and renamed himself Forrest Carter, in honor of Southern Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Carter's best-known fictional works are Gone to Texas: The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales (1973) and The Education of Little Tree (1976). Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a 1976 film adaptation of the former, retitled The Outlaw Josey Wales. The Education of Little Tree was once on Oprah Winfrey’s reading list but was withdrawn after Carter’s pro-white past was revealed. In 1997, The Education of Little Tree was adapted into a made-for-TV movie but was instead given a theatrical release.

Carter completed one more novel, Watch for Me on the Mountain, a fictionalized biography of Geronimo. He was working on The Wanderings of Little Tree, a sequel to The Education of Little Tree and a screenplay version of the book when he died in 1979 from injuries he received in a fistfight.

Asa Carter is buried in a small church cemetery near Anniston, Alabama at the intersection of Jones Road and DeArmanville Road.[2]


See also

External links


Books by Forrest Carter

  • Gone to Texas (1973)
  • The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales (1976)
  • The Education of Little Tree (1976)
  • Watch for Me on the Mountain (1978)

Books about Carter's faking of ethnicity

  • Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities (Laura Browder, 2003)
  • Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination (Shari M Huhndorf, 2004)
  • Native American Fiction: A User's Guide (David Treuer, 2006)

Articles about Carter's faking of ethnicity

  • Is Forrest Carter Really Asa Carter? Only Josey Wales May Know for Sure (Wayne Greenshaw: New York Times 1976)
  • "Authenticity", or the Lesson of Little Tree (Henry Louis Gates, Jr: New York Times Book review 1991)
  • Widow of 'Little Tree' Author Admits He Changed Identity (Calvin Reid: Publishers Weekly 1991)
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