Pioneering Actor-Producer Terry Carter Dies


Actor and producer Terry Carter has died in New York City. The former co-star of TV’s “McCloud” and “Battlestar Galactica” was 95. Carter’s death follows on the heels of Black male stars Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Carl Weathers, Lou Gossett, Jr., and athlete-actor O.J. Simpson. Carter, born in Brooklyn in 1928, was older than them all. He was of Afro-Latin descent, and his given name was John DeCoste. In a predominantly Italian community, his childhood best friend grew up to be jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. Carter also played some jazz piano as a young man.

Carter attended various colleges, including Hunter, UCLA, Boston University and Northeastern. For a time, he studied law at St. John’s University in his native New York. He served as a merchant marine. The wide scope of experience helped him learn the responsibilities of the legal officers and military men he later played. His first TV role was as Sergeant “Sugie” Sugarman on the 1955-1959 military sitcom “The Phil Silvers Show”. It was one of the earliest regular roles on U.S. network TV featuring a Black character who was not a domestic household hire. Bilko debuted a decade before Bill Cosby’s groundbreaking part on “I Spy”. Carter cut his producing teeth at age 30 in 1958 with an off-Broadway staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

Carter guested on a 1965 episode of the popular military drama “Combat”. Also in 1965, after a brief Broadway career, which included co-starring with Eartha Kitt in Mrs. Patterson, he was hired at Boston’s WBZ-TV as the city’s first Black news anchor, in a weekend position. He held that position three years, and along with New York City’s Bob Teague and Mal Goode, was one of the first Black newsmen in major city television.

In the 1970 TV movie “Company Of Killers,” Carter co-starred with screen veterans Ray Milland and Van Johnson. In addition to one of his most prominent roles, as Sergeant Joe Broadhurst, supervisor to Dennis Weaver’s title character on the NBC police series “McCloud” (1970-1977), Carter portrayed (police) Officer Tuttle in the 1974 children’s movie “Benji”. Throughout his entertainment career, Carter was generally cast as clean-cut authority figures with a no-nonsense outlook. A notable departure from this pattern was his turn as the confidant to Pam Grier’s title lead in the 1974 Blaxploitation feature “Foxy Brown”.

In 1978 and 1979, Carter earned the role for which he is perhaps best known, Colonel Tigh, on the short-lived ABC sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica”. Two decades later, the versatile Carter portrayed a CIA official in the Swedish action film “Hamilton,” and played an Ethiopian businessman on the Norwegian soap opera “Hotel Caesar”.

As a producer, he helmed educational and corporate films under his company Meta/4 Productions. His subjects ranged from biographical public TV presentations about choreographer Katherine Dunham and composer Duke Ellington, to the Emmy Award winning PBS series “K*I*D*S”. The latter documented the lives of troubled teens of varying ethnic groups. His 1988 PBS “American Masters: A Duke Called Ellington” was nominated for an Emmy.

Carter was well regarded in the entertainment industry. He served two terms on the Governing Board of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was also on the Foreign Films and Documentary Committee for The Academy Awards.

Whether on camera, in roles, or reporting news, Carter was successfully accomplished. In the instances where he established new ground for Black performers, he helped inspire those who followed.

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