Dixie Virginia Carter died she was 70. Carter was an American actress, having appeared in films, television and on stage. She was best-known for her long-running role in the sitcom Designing Women (1986-1993). She had been nominated for
the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Desperate Housewives in 2007.
Carter was born in McLemoresville, Tennessee, and spent many of her early years in Memphis. She attended college at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). She was a graduate of Memphis State (now University of Memphis)with a degree in English.
At school, she was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. In 1959, Carter competed in the Miss Tennessee pageant, where she placed first runner-up to Mickie Weyland.
In 1960, Carter made her professional stage debut in a Memphis production of Carousel. She moved to New York City in 1963 and got a part in a production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
After an eight-year hiatus from acting, she returned to the craft in 1974, when she filled in for actress Nancy Pinkerton as Dorian Cramer on One Life to Live, while Pinkerton was on maternity leave. She subsequently was cast in the role of Assistant D.A. Olivia Brandeis "Brandy" Henderson on the soap opera The Edge of Night, on which she appeared from 1974-76. (She went along with the show when it switched from CBS to ABC.) Carter took the role even though some advised her that doing a daytime soap might negatively affect her career. However, it was with this role that Carter was first noticed, and after leaving Edge of Night in 1976, she relocated from New York to Los Angeles, and pursued prime time television roles.
She appeared in series such as Out of the Blue, On Our Own, Diff'rent Strokes and Filthy Rich (1982). Carter's appearance in Filthy Rich paved the way for her best known role, that of interior decorator Julia Sugarbaker in the 1980s/1990s television program Designing Women, set in Atlanta, Georgia. Filthy Rich had been created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who went on to create Designing Women. (Filthy Rich also featured future Designing Women cast member Delta Burke in its cast.) Hal Holbrook, her real-life husband, had a recurring role as Reese Watson; and her daughters, Ginna and Mary Dixie also had guest star roles as Julia Sugarbaker's nieces, Jennifer and Camilla.
From 1999-2002, she portrayed "Randi King" on the legal drama Family Law, portraying a lawyer for the first time since she was Brandy Henderson on The Edge of Night. In 2004, she would later make a guest appearance on Law and Order: SVU, playing a defense attorney named Denise Brockmorton in the episode called Home, in which she defended the paranoid mother of two children (Diane Venora) who had manipulated her older son to kill the younger son, after breaking her home rules.
Carter starred in several Broadway musicals and plays, She appeared on and off-Broadway as well, most recently portraying diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Master Class, a role created by Zoe Caldwell.
In 2006-07 Carter found renewed fame with a new generation of fans as the very disturbed and disturbing Gloria Hodge on Desperate Housewives, earning an Emmy nomination for her work on the series. Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry started out in Hollywood as Carter's assistant on the set of Designing Women.
Her final film was That Evening Sun, which she filmed on location with her husband Hal Holbrook in East Tennessee in the summer of 2008. The film was produced by Dogwood Entertainment (a subsidiary of DoubleJay Creative) and is based on a short story by William Gay. That Evening Sun will premiere at South By Southwest, where it will compete for the narrative feature grand jury prize.
Carter gave an interview in 2006 for the feature length documentary, That Guy: The Legacy of Dub Taylor on the life of Dub Taylor, which received support from Taylor's family and many of Dub's previous co-workers, including Bill Cosby, Peter Fonda, Don Collier, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett and many others. The project was scheduled to have its World Premiere at Taylor's childhood hometown of Augusta, Georgia, on April 14, 2007.
In 1967, Carter married businessman Arthur Carter (no relation). They had two daughters, Mary Dixie and Ginna (who would later appear in an episode of Designing Women). Following the birth of her daughters, Carter left acting for eight years to focus on raising her children. She divorced Arthur Carter in 1977, and married Broadway and TV actor George Hearn the same year. Two years later, in 1979, she divorced Hearn. She married for the third time on May 27, 1984, to Hal Holbrook (14 years her senior), who is most noted for his appearances as Mark Twain. Carter renovated her old family home in McLemoresville. She and Holbrook divided their time between their homes in Beverly Hills, California, and McLemoresville, Tennessee, where Carter's elderly father, Halbert, resided until his death in early 2007, at age 96.
In 1996, Carter published a memoir titled Trying to Get to Heaven, in which she talked frankly about her life with Hal Holbrook, Designing Women, and her plastic surgery during the show's run.
Carter was also a registered Republican who described her political views as libertarian. She was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly along with Pat Boone at the 2000 Republican National Convention. Though her Designing Women character, Julia Sugarbaker, was known for her liberal political views and subsequent monologues, Carter disagreed with many of her character's left-of-center commentaries, and made a deal with the producers that for every speech she gave, Julia would get to sing a song in a future episode. Carter once jokingly described herself as "the only Republican in show business".
Carter died on April 10, 2010. No cause was immediately disclosed, Carter, who was 70, is survived by her actor husband of 26 years Hal Holbrook, and her daughters Mary Dixie and Ginna, by her first marriage to businessman Arthur Carter. The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center (informally called "The Dixie") in Huntingdon, Tennessee is named in honor of Carter.