Sarah E. Carter, 77, Arundel council's only black member

Sarah E. Carter, "a people's person" during her two terms on the Anne Arundel County Council and the only black to serve on the council, died Tuesday of heart failure in Dover, Del., where she had lived for four years.

Mrs. Carter, 77, lived most of her life in the Cedar Hill section of the county near Brooklyn Park and was elected to the council in 1974.


Always a champion of the underdog, Mrs. Carter opposed heavy industry in the northeastern part of the county and voted against industrial revenue bonds, which she called "rich man's food stamps."

She fought diligently for the county's small communities and for the fire and police departments. She endeared herself so to firefighters that near the end of her second term they gave her a firefighter's jacket with "Mom" on the back.


"She could relate to the everyday people out there, and she always had time for anything," said County Councilman George F. Bachman, who was council chairman when Mrs. Carter was elected.

"She focused her agenda on helping out the little people because she was a real people's person."

In the late 1970s, Mrs. Carter vehemently opposed a plan to build a halfway house in a small community near Brooklyn Park, saying there was no transportation through the area and that offenders at the halfway house would have to walk through the community to get to bus lines.

"She fought that hard, and she won -- they didn't build it there," Mr. Bachman said.

Not only was Mrs. Carter the only black to serve on the council, but she was also one of its first three women.

"Nineteen seventy-four was a good year for women," said Del. Virginia P. Clagett, who, along with Ann C. Stockett, was elected with Mrs. Carter. "She was a strong, caring voice for her constituents."

A native of Baltimore, the former Sarah Howard moved to Anne Arundel County as a child. Although she lived in the county, she graduated from Douglass High School in Baltimore in the 1930s. She later attended Anne Arundel Community College.

In 1952, she married William Ray Carter, who died in 1994.


A homemaker most of her life, Mrs. Carter ran for the County Council at the urging of other council members.

"She always felt it [being in politics] was an opportunity to make a real difference," said her daughter Vanessa Carter of Millersville.

Another daughter, Andrea Gross of Millersville, said, "She was on the council not just because she was black or a woman, but because she had something to offer the entire community."

Constituents and some in the news media said Mrs. Carter never got too "full of herself" after becoming a council member.

"She was still the same old person pulling up weeds or cleaning up trash around her house that she always was," said Thelma Wagner, a longtime friend. "People called her all of the time and at any time, and she didn't care."

Mrs. Carter served two four-year terms, then lost a re-election bid in 1982 after redistricting moved her from the 3rd Councilmanic District to the 1st, a move she strongly opposed.


"I'm comfortable in my district," she said in a 1981 interview. "I was a pioneer, and I'm getting too old now to blaze another trail."

Services were Friday.

She is also survived by five sons, James Spriggs of Brooklyn Park, Robert Spriggs of Glen Burnie, Ronald Spriggs of Dover, Del., William Carter Jr. of Belleview, Neb., and Charles Carter of Millersville; another daughter, Gracie Smith of Baltimore; two brothers, Joseph Howard Jr. of California and Lewis Howard of Glen Burnie; a sister, Jane Stokes of Howard County; 17 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 1/25/98