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.
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 to 1976. (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 Carter's daughters, Ginna and Mary Dixie, also had guest-star roles as Julia Sugarbaker's nieces, Jennifer and Camilla.
Coincidentally, actress Mary Ann Mobley who replaced Dixie as Maggie on Diff'rent Strokes, guest starred on Designing Women, as Karen, a snide head of a historical society who put Julia's home on a tour of homes, and ended up angering Julia.
Famous for portraying strong-minded Southern women, Carter provided the voice of Necile in Mike Young Productions' direct-to-video 2000 cartoon feature The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. She was also in the voice cast of My Neighbors the Yamadas, the English-language dub of Studio Ghibli's 1999 anime movie Hôhokekyo Tonari No Yamadâkun.
From 1999 to 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 made 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, playing the role of Melba Snyder in the 1976 Circle in the Square revival of Pal Joey and 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 disturbed 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. She was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Desperate Housewives in 2007.
Carter gave an interview in 2006 for the feature length documentary, That Guy: The Legacy 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.
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 premiered at South By Southwest, where it competed for the narrative feature grand jury prize.
In 1967, Carter married businessman Arthur Carter (no prior relation). They had two daughters (who would later appear in an episode of Designing Women), Mary Dixie and Ginna. 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. She acknowledged, along with other celebrities, having used HGH (Human Growth Hormone) for its anti-aging properties.
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. Although 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 had to make, with which she disagreed, Julia would get to sing a song in a future episode. Carter once jokingly described herself as "the only Republican in show business". She was also a strong supporter of the gay community. 
Death and legacy
Carter died on April 10, 2010, in Houston, Texas. Her death was announced by her husband, actor Hal Holbrook, who stated the cause as complications from endometrial cancer which was diagnosed earlier in 2010. In addition to Holbrook, she is survived by her daughters from her first marriage: Ginna Carter (of Los Angeles) and Mary Dixie Carter (of Brooklyn) as well as a sister, Melba Helen Heath (of San Anselmo, California) and several nephews and nieces. In addition to family, her funeral, held on April 15, 2010, was attended by Designing Women co-stars Delta Burke, Annie Potts and Jean Smart. Dixie Carter was interred in her hometown, McLemoresville, Tennessee.
The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center (informally called "The Dixie") in Huntingdon, Tennessee is named in honor of Carter.
- 2009: That Evening Sun — Ellen Meecham
- 2008: Our First Christmas (TV) — Evie Baer
- 2006: Desperate Housewives — Gloria Hodge (7 episodes, 2006–2007)
- 2005: Hope & Faith — Joyce Shanowski (1 episode, 2005)
- 2004: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit — Denise Brockmorton (1 episode, 2004)
- 2004: Sudbury (TV)
- 2003: Comfort and Joy (TV) — Frederica
- 1999: Family Law — Randi King (68 episodes, 1999–2002)
- 2001: The Big Day — Carol
- 2000: The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (V) (voice) — Necile
- 1999: Ladies Man — Peaches (9 episodes, 1999–2000)
- 1999: Hôhokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun (voice: English version)
- 1997: Fired Up — Rita (2 episodes, 1997)
- 1996: Gone in the Night (TV) — Ann Dowaliby
- 1995: Diagnosis: Murder — D.A. Patricia Purcell (1 episode, 1995)
- 1995: Dazzle (TV) — Lydie Kilkullen
- 1994: Christy — Julia Huddleston (1 episode, 1994)
- 1994: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (TV) — Lillie Langtry
- 1994: A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle (TV) — Louise Archer
- 1986: Designing Women — Julia Sugarbaker (163 episodes, 1986–1993)
- 1986: Crazy Like a Fox (1 episode, 1986)
- 1984: Diff'rent Strokes — Maggie McKinney (28 episodes, 1984–1985)
- 1983: Going Berserk — Angela
- 1982: Filthy Rich — Carlotta Beck (15 episodes, 1982–1983)
- 1982: Lou Grant — Jessica Lindner (1 episode, 1982)
- 1982: The Greatest American Hero — Samantha O'Neill (1 episode, 1982)
- 1982: Quincy, M.E. — Dr. Alicia Ranier (1 episode, 1982)
- 1982: Best of the West — Mae Markham (1 episode, 1982)
- 1982: Bret Maverick — Hallie McCulloch (1 episode, 1982)
- 1982: Cassie & Co. — Evelyn Weller (1 episode, 1982)
- 1981: The Killing of Randy Webster (TV) — Billie Webster
- 1980: O.H.M.S. (TV) — Nora Wing
- 1979: Out of the Blue — Marion Richards (8 episodes, 1979)
- 1977: On Our Own — April Baxter (22 episodes, 1977–1978)
- 1977: The Andros Targets — Rita (1 episode, 1977)
- 1974: The Edge of Night TV series — Assistant District Attorney Olivia Brandeis Henderson (unknown episodes, 1974–1976)
- 1963: The Doctors TV series — Unknown (late 1970s) (unknown episodes)
- ""Designing Women" star Dixie Carter dies at 70". forum.bcdb.com, April 10, 2010
- SXSW unveils lineup
- USA Today November 15, 2000
- Winter, Bill. "Dixie Carter – Libertarian". Advocates for Self-Government. Archived from the original on 2003-04-24.
- "'Designing Women’ actress Dixie Carter dies at 70; had roots in West Tennessee". The Commercial Appeal.Com. April 11, 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
- "The View". Official Website. January 31, 2001.
- Metroweekly website/Carter obituary
- Notice of Dixie Carter's death
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