Passing of a pioneer

Published 10:54 am Monday, November 20, 2017

POWELLSVILLE – There was little doubt that Ernest Rawls “Buck” Carter was a fighter.

Whether he was in a scrape over what he believed in, or going the distance for the things he loved most: his family and his town, always served up his best.

Carter died Sunday at his home after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. He was 90.

Born in Ahoskie, and following service in the military, Carter took over the family business, E. R. Carter & Son, a general merchandise store he operated with his parents in Powellsville. He served the town as a Commissioner, Mayor, and another post that was dearest to his heart: the town’s first Fire Chief.

Believing the town needed a fire department, Carter went to Raleigh to get very first fire truck for the Powellsville

Carter rings the bell of a gift given to him in 2015 in honor of his 57 years to the PVFD.

Volunteer Fire Department: an old surplus military vehicle that he and others converted into a fire truck.

Carter stepped down as Fire Chief in 1979 due to health issues, but he never fully retired from the force, remaining active until he “officially” retired in November of 2014.

Even then, he could be called upon for fund-raisers, such as the department’s annual barbeque and he even had a hand in pushing for David Powell to take over the reins, and who remains in that position today.

In honor of his nearly 60 years in the PVFD, Carter was presented with the official emblem of the department (Station 52) on a wooden plaque, complete with a bell in February 2015; PVFD fireman David Harrell making the presentation.

However, his fighting spirit kept Carter around past his November retirement, keeping alive a tradition of often being the first man to the station to get the trucks rolling.

“If I didn’t see him show up whenever the alarm kicked off, I’d start to get a little bit worried,” said PVFD member Al Castelloe.

“I could always count on Buck to come to the fires and wrecks, and whatever else we had. He’d do anything he could to help us out.”

Castelloe says there’s one thing advancing age prevented Carter from participating: driving the truck.

“I told him, ‘Buck, I’ll drive the truck, and when we get to the scene, between the two of us, we’ll figure out a way to get the water out’,” Castelloe recalled.

“If he could have stuck with us up until the day he died he would have,” Castelloe added. “He believed in us. You really can’t say anything bad about Buck Carter.”

Castelloe says much of Carter’s commitment springs from those early days.

“I joined the department in 1971 and we held a huge fund-raiser because we wanted to get a new truck,” Castelloe recounted. “We finally got a 1952 model in 1972 and it cost about $130,000 cheaper than they are now.”

Carter’s fire helmet and boots are positioned with a wreath this week in front of the department.

Carter even had a hand in the loan the town secured for a pumper in 2010, and was especially proud when Powellsville beat out several other small communities across the country in 2009 and was awarded a new E-ONE Tradition ES pumper, valued at over $170,000.

Carter was also a man of faith; as evidenced in his devotion to Powellsville United Methodist Church where he was a lifelong member. It’s also where he taught Sunday School, served as Superintendent, Treasurer and in all phases of church life.

“He lived that faith every day,” said Rev. Walter Johnston, pastor of the church for the past 11 years. “He wasn’t no ‘Sunday morning Christian’. He was always lifting other people up to fight the things in life like he did. It never got him down.”

Carter was among the church parishioners who spearheaded the current construction of a new expansion project: a fellowship hall (named for Carter, his wife, Rebecca (“Becky”), and Hugh and Fran Moseley).

“We’re calling it the Hall of Faith and Fellowship because of their outstanding faith,” related Johnston. “When I came here (2005), this church was down to four members – the four of them.”

Johnston says he hopes major portions of the expansion will be completed by late December in time for the church’s Christmas gathering.

“We know we will not be finished by then, maybe completely finished by the first of the year,” he said. “We’re also adding a kitchen, handicapped facilities, and a storage area.”

Johnston says community volunteers who are undertaking a majority of the work kept Carter abreast of their progress.

“They knew how much he had invested in this,” the pastor emphasized. “So they would take him pictures and such, but he would tell them that he could already see in his mind how it would appear when completed. I believe God had given him a vision, but it’s just amazing to see how everybody’s worked so diligently to get this completed, even members of Powellsville Baptist church.  Naturally, we wanted to get it completed before he died, but it was not meant to be. Still, in his heart, he knew what it was going to look like.”

Many of Powellsville’s residents were among those who praised Carter for his dedication to his community, though he never received accolades for his service. North Carolina Governor James Holshouser in 1975 did confer on him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine – the state’s highest civilian service honor – for his distinguished community service.

“I didn’t really know him very well,” said incoming Powellsville mayor James Peele. “But given the accolades cited for his life as an entrepreneur, for helping to initiate in this town many of the things we now still enjoy, and I think that is truly commendable.”

At his graveside service on Wednesday, where Rev. Johnston delivered the stirring eulogy as Carter was interned within a fire-hose nozzle.

Once a fireman, always a fireman.