Simply put, Ulish Carter was a man of the Black Press.
In his own words, Carter wrote in the New Pittsburgh Courier in 2011 that “after graduating from Southern Illinois University with my degree in hand…I was ready to see what was out there. I wanted to work for a Black newspaper, and nothing less would do. I wanted to make a difference in the Black community.”
Making a difference in the Black community, specifically Pittsburgh’s Black community, is exactly what Ulish Carter did.
Carter, who came to the Courier in 1973 as a sportswriter and later became managing editor, died on Wednesday, July 12, in the Pittsburgh area. He was 72.
There wasn’t one part of the Courier editorial operation that the hard-working Carter didn’t touch. He excelled in the sports department; in layout and page design; in the news department; in mentorship of other staff writers; in the selection of the best photos for the newspaper; on the entertainment beat; and as an opinion columnist. Carter and his team at the Courier won countless local, state and national awards. Carter, not one to toot his own horn, was calm and steady, unabashed in his opinions, the person you could count on to get things done.
Ulish Carter was born in Huntingdon, Tennessee. As a child, Carter moved to Paducah, Ky., before settling in Champaign, Ill. Patricia Lewis, one of Carter’s two sisters, told the Courier that Carter loved sports and was a member of his Centennial High School basketball team. As a high-schooler in the ‘60s, the Civil Rights Movement had a profound impact on Carter. He would often write about equal rights, along with sports, and Lewis would sneak into her older brother’s room and read Carter’s writings. While those writings weren’t published, it wouldn’t be long before Carter’s writings would reach the masses.
At Southern Illinois, Carter majored in Black History, American, African and World History. But then he took a journalism class, and “was hooked,” as he wrote in the Courier in 2011.
“Communications be came my major,” Carter wrote, while detailing his four decades in the Black Press. “I read the Pittsburgh Courier, the Afro American, the Chicago Defender and their contributions to the Black struggle. I enjoyed reading Jet, Ebony and Muhammad Speaks, which was the only means of information on Blacks, for Blacks, by Blacks, for those of us in small cities or towns.”
ULISH CARTER, AS A SPORTSWRITER IN THE ‘70s AT THE COURIER.
Carter got the call from the Courier to become a sportswriter in 1973. “Even though I really wanted to write news, I would do anything to just get my foot in the door,” Carter wrote. “So I came to a city I had never seen, hundreds of miles from my family and friends to fulfill my dream.”
In 1979, after six years in sports and entertainment, Carter moved to the Courier news department, and eventually became managing editor. He left in 1981, but returned as managing editor from 1996-2004, and from 2008-2017. Some of Carter’s more notable accomplishments at the Courier include working with Bill Nunn in selecting the Pittsburgh Courier “Black All Americans,” which highlighted star athletes in HBCUs. Following Nunn’s departure from the Courier, Carter continued the tradition of selecting those popular Courier teams filled with stars from Black colleges. Later, Carter was instrumental in compiling a similar team for star athletes in the Pittsburgh City League high schools. Carter was also known for his “Record Rack” columns, which would introduce Black Pittsburghers to a wide variety of music and its artists.
PART OF THE COURIER TEAM—Left to right: Stephan Broadus, Eric Gaines, Rod Doss, Joan Alli, Ulish Carter.
Away from journalism, Carter was involved with the Westgate Village Residence organization (Pittsburgh’s West End) as a volunteer, and worked with many community organizations based on the North Side. Carter was the father to two sons, one of whom is deceased.
“Ulish was the consummate journalist dedicated to the Black Press and the Black community,” said Rod Doss, editor and publisher. “Ulish could not escape the passion he felt for the Courier and the community it served. He left the Courier a few times and returned with a renewed sense of dedication to the work he loved doing. And he did it well.”
“Ulish was the heart and soul of our editorial department for many years,” said Stephan Broadus, Courier assistant to the publisher. “He was our resident sports historian and his knowledge of the Black Press was unequaled. His commitment to serving the community showed in the pages of the Courier. With a small staff and dedicated freelance writers, Ulish provided steady leadership in putting out an award-winning newspaper every week.”
“Ulish Carter was such a gentle, warm-hearted person,” remarked Ashley Johnson, Courier sales director. “He was dedicated to the Courier and committed to making sure the community was covered. When it came to business, he didn’t play, but he also had a great sense of humor. No matter one’s role on the team, Ulish appreciated everyone and treated them with respect. I am honored to have worked in the editorial department under his leadership. He was well-respected and will be missed dearly.”
Allison Palm, Courier office manager, called Carter a “kind, intelligent, even-tempered man” who “embodied a wealth of knowledge of history, music and sports. Humble, he was never one to brag or accept accolades for the contributions he made to the Courier or the community he served. I was fortunate enough to spend many hours with Ulish discussing the Steelers and the world of football, many times, agreeing to disagree. It was that spirit of fairness he possessed that led us to a trusted friendship (discussing our families, current events, movies, music and life journeys for almost 20 years). His calm nature and trust in his constituents extended to his co-workers, his freelancers and many who passed through the walls of the Courier. His editorial leadership was admirable, leaving many with a fond memory of a man who not only emitted respect and confidence, but gave it to others. That same respect and confidence opened the door of diverse styles of newspaper articles for many local journalists/freelancers as they touched the lives of the New Pittsburgh Courier community.”
“When I think of Ulish, the first thing that comes to mind is a man of honor and respect, and also a very kind and caring person,” said Rev. A. Marie Walker, who writes an inspiration column for the Courier. “I am so blessed to have known him.”
Carter, who had five brothers and two sisters, lent a helping hand to his sister, Patricia Lewis, early in Lewis’ adult life. Fully entrenched in Pittsburgh, he offered Lewis the opportunity to stay at his residence. Lewis moved from Champaign to Pittsburgh, and it allowed Lewis to get back on her feet. After working for multiple Fortune 500 companies, she’s now retired and living in suburban Atlanta.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for Ulish,” Lewis told the Courier.
Lewis added about her brother: “He was a quiet giant, he got things done but he was very quiet about it. If you knew Ulish, you didn’t think he was doing the things he was doing. He wasn’t boastful but behind the scenes he was always active…he had a kind heart, he always rooted for the underdog.”
(Editor’s note: A memorial for Ulish Carter is being planned by the family, to be held in August.)