MONTGOMERY – When Richard Roosevelt Carter was attending Rehobeth High School in Fairfax back in the 1960s, he realized God called him to serve two ministries.
Now, more than 50 years later, Reverend Carter is still following God’s unique plan for his life. That plan has also led Coach Carter to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The Lanett High School boys’ basketball coach is one of 12 individuals being inducted in the Class of 2017 at this year’s banquet March 20 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m.
Born across the state line in Georgia, Carter grew up in the Valley area. It was while he was attending Rehobeth High School in Chambers County that his dual path as coach and pastor was started. He served as the varsity basketball team’s manager, but his role became much more than handing out towels.
“Coach Arthur, who was the Rehobeth coach, many times would have other things to do after school, so he would allow me to run basketball practices,” Carter recalled in an interview. With the practice schedule in hand, “I would run them through the drills and the rest of practice.”
With his career path developing, Coach Carter took notes and learned all he could from the coach before heading off to college. And along the way, he found strength in his religious faith that would also lead to a career path for him.
“I probably chose two of the most difficult, yet rewarding professions,” he said.” For me, coaching is a ministry. It’s an avenue for me to lead young men to Christ. I cannot tell you how many young men that I have coached over the years who are now in the ministry as stewards, deacons or members of the choir in the churches. What a reward.”
He started his teaching and coaching career at Bullock County High School in Union Springs in 1969. He remained there five years, serving as head football and baseball varsity coach and junior varsity basketball coach.
In 1975 he moved to Chambers County to coach football, basketball and tennis at Valley High School. His basketball record from 1975-99 was 301-62. He had multiple 20-win seasons and carried three teams to the semifinals of the state tournament.
After spending several years in Georgia, Coach Carter returned to Chambers County, taking the head basketball position at Lanett High School. With more than 100 wins to his credit at Lanett, his teams have won 20 or more games each season he has been there. The 2011-12 and 2013-14 teams, both with 25-5 regular season records, made it to the semifinals of the State Finals in Birmingham. His 2016 and 2017 teams won back-to-back Class 2A state championships going 29-6 and 25-7 respectively. His career record after the 2017 season was 555-120.
Overall in his half-century coaching career, he has had 15 teams make it to the semifinals. That was the kind of success story that appealed to Lanett City Schools Superintendent Phillip Johnson when he hired Carter:
“I envisioned a basketball program for Lanett High School that only would be known for a winning spirit, but also would be known for developing a spirit of strong character and civic responsibility in our players,” said Johnson. “Since implementing a program geared to teaching and mentoring students on and off the court, Coach Carter’s impact is evident in our players. Academics and character are stressed in practice, workouts and on the court. He holds players accountable for their grades, conduct and integrity, and he provides the example for which they can grow into men of character.
“His noteworthy coaching accomplishments highlight a career of devotion to athletes in our region. He is respected throughout the community in both public and private school settings and in various churches as a man who can teach our students to be productive citizens.”
Lanett head football coach Clifford Story, Jr., said Coach Carter’s influence reached beyond the basketball court to other sports as well.
“Richard’s enthusiasm is contagious to our players, and he is a big reason why our numbers [have grown] from year to year in students signing athletic scholarships in all sports offered at Lanett High School’: Story said. “He can get players to push beyond their perceived limit. His passion for the game of basketball is easily recognizable.
“Leadership has also been a very integral part of what Richard has contributed to Lanett High. This year he helped introduce our athletes to our new character education program. Richard taught lessons about leadership and responsibilities which made a profound difference in the attitude of our program. He was the perfect instructor because of how genuine he is with the students.“
“But he has not limited himself to just excelling his professional life. He is a great family man with a loving wife, children, and grandchildren. His family is one of the most important things in his life, and he is a committed husband and father.”
Lanett Principal Jennifer Boyd said Carter’s special traits of mentorship and focus on building character are impressive. He has made character building an intricate part of his coaching style.”
He was named the Chambers County Teacher of the Year in 1995.
He is pastor of Jones Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairfield. He has been a volunteer in the Jones Valley Feed the Hungry Program and in Alzheimer, cancer and sickle cell anemia programs.
Tuesday: Fifth installment of the Hall of Fame series: Pike County Football Coach Wayne Grant.