John Carter (1922 – 2018) was the first African-American to join the American Cinema Editors society. He put his editing touch to more than 50 feature films. Carter was born in Newark, New Jersey. After a stint in the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant, he trained at the New York Institute of Photography and then took an apprenticeship with the Signal Corps Pictorial Center. He was hired by CBS in 1956 and became the first African-American editor for network television in New York. For the last four of his twelve years with CBS, he served as the supervising film editor for the award-winning documentary unit, “Eye On New York.” In 1968, he left CBS to form John Carter Associates, Inc., where he co-edited the George Plimpton film Paper Lion (1968).
As his second film, he co-edited with Lora Hays the three-hour documentary King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis, produced by Ely Landau and directed Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with appearances by Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones. Montgomery to Memphis screened as a "one-time only" nationwide event in 1,000 theaters on March 24, 1970, received an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature.
Carter then edited Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). a comedy co-written and directed by Ossie Davis. In 1972, he received a BAFTA nomination for editing Taking Off, Milos Forman's first American film. He edited The Heartbreak Kid (1973) and Mikey and Nicky (1976), both directed by Elaine May.
In 1982, Carter edited a PBS historical drama, A House Divided: Denmark Vesey's Rebellion, that focused on the true story of a carpenter and former slave (played by Yaphet Kotto) who planned to seize the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and stage a rebellion. In 1983-1984, working with producer and co-writer Elsa Rassbach, he edited The Killing Floor (1984), which premiered on PBS American Playhouse series, followed by two more films for the series: Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984), directed by Gordon Parks and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Charlotte Forten's Mission: Experiment in Freedom (1985), starring Melba Moore as the African-American abolitionist and educator who taught former slaves in South Carolina.
In 1988, he edited German director Bernhard Sinkel's four-part miniseries, Hemingway. Subsequent films he edited include: Lean on Me (1989), starring Morgan Freeman; The Karate Kid Part III (1989), one of three features he did with director John G. Avildsen; Men of Honor (2000), and the Eddie Murphy comedy Boomerang (1992).
The director Bill Duke then engaged Carter as his editor on Deep Cover (1992), Sister Act 2, Back in the Habit (1993), and The Cemetery Club (1993). Later films edited by Carter include the Ice Cube comedies Friday (1995) and Barbershop (2002); Martin Lawrence's A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996); Alec Baldwin's Shortcut to Happiness (2003), and Madea's Family Reunion (2006), the last film he edited.