George Fisher knows David Carter is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off his back.
So it’s only fitting that Fisher gave Carter the shirt off his back when they came face-to-face for the first time in the fall of 1977.
Carter was assigned to Macon’s old Lanier High School in November 1962. He was commanding officer of 1,300 cadets in the nation’s largest Junior ROTC program. After Lanier became Central, Carter was the Senior Army Instructor for the heralded program.
Fisher was a scrawny 10th-grader who, like many others, feared the ground Carter walked on. Carter wasn’t mean. He was just an authoritative figure, much like the principal.
When Fisher was issued his uniform, his shirt was so large it looked like a circus tent.
“An 11th-grader gave it to me and told me they didn’t have my size. It was a khaki shirt probably 10 sizes too big,” Fisher said. “It looked like a dress. My dad took me to the Army surplus store on Broadway and bought me a good-looking khaki shirt, only it wasn’t the same as the others. I stood out like a Baby Ruth in a punch bowl.”
At the first inspection, Fisher lined up with the other cadets. He managed to escape the watchful glances of the student squad and platoon leaders. There was considerably more scrutiny when Maj. Carter and Sgt. Maj. Oscar Sapp moved their eyes down the line.
Fisher was singled out to explain his different shirt. He stammered that his father bought him a new one and all the patches had to be transferred.
“I thought I was going to be skinned alive or there would be a public stoning,” he said, laughing.
Instead, a smaller shirt was found for him. And Carter wasn’t angry. He was curious about the shirt’s newer fabric. The material was lightweight and wash-and-wear, much more practical than the program’s traditional starched shirts. It was a shirt that ended up later being used for Central’s ROTC drill teams.
By Fisher’s junior year, Carter was one of his classroom instructors. He learned first aid and map reading. Carter taught him how to apply a tourniquet, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and understand a military terrain map.
Fisher participated on the drill and rifle teams and was a member of the color guard. “Every time somebody needed a flag raised in town, Maj. Carter got us there,” he said.
Fisher is now 51 years old and has served in the military for 34 years. He is a lieutenant colonel with the Georgia National Guard, who went to Iraq with the 48th Brigade in 2005.
He looks back now, along with others, at the positive ways in which Carter shaped his life and career. The major’s battle cry has always been “maximum emphasis on everything.”
One of Carter’s most treasured possessions is a photograph of the late Sonny Carter, his former Lanier student (Class of 1965) and a NASA astronaut, with this inscription: “To Major David Carter, my teacher and friend. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of leadership. Sonny Carter.”
“He was influencing us even when we were not aware of it,” Fisher said. “Most of us didn’t realize it or appreciate it until later in life. He took Lanier and Central from the biggest in the nation and made them the best in the nation.”
Carter is now 83 and one of the most well-respected gentlemen in this community. He was at Lanier and Central for 28 years, retiring in 1990.
He enlisted in the Army in 1947, served on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff in Japan the following year and was among the first members of what became the Army’s Special Forces during the Korean War.
One of my greatest admirations for Carter came in his role as a notification officer during the Vietnam War. He had the grim assignment of knocking on doors all over Middle and south Georgia to inform families a loved one had been killed in action. He attended the funerals, too, with flag-draped caskets.
Carter not only served his country, but he also answered the civic call of duty. He was a Macon city councilman for 17 years, including eight as council president. (In 1995, he finished the term of Mayor Tommy Olmstead when Olmstead left to head the state Department of Human Resources.)
Carter’s wife, Martha, has been widely recognized as one of Macon’s most tireless volunteers. They have four adult sons, two of whom were born visually impaired.
With the help of a committee, Fisher has planned a weekend of recognition for Carter, the man he often refers to as the “Major Mayor.” Fisher organized a similar tribute for Sapp in 2004.
The three-day tribute will begin with a cookout at Sandy Beach at Lake Tobesofkee on Friday, July 25, followed by a banquet on Saturday, July 26 in the Monument Room at the Macon Coliseum. The weekend will conclude with a worship service at Tattnall Square Baptist on Sunday morning.
For more information, call 478-803-3063 or visit the Facebook page “Central/Lanier High School JROTC.”
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.