Carter: Impacting area youth for decades

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of six articles, each highlighting one of the 2022 inductees to the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence.

The Franklin Community Wall of Excellence gained six new names via its 2022 class.

Those being inducted onto the wall due to their outstanding service included Robert E. Carter, Herman A. Charity and the late George Horace “Top” Hedgepeth. Constance Lankford Chase was inducted due to her impact in the world of cultural and performing arts, Ronald Reese was inducted as a result of his athletic accomplishment and J. Mitchell Sandlin joined the wall due to his outstanding career.

The sixth annual Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Induction Dinner and Ceremony took place Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Cypress Cove Country Club.

As noted in the event’s program, through the vision of some local Franklin City Public Schools alumni and school personnel, the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Inc. was established in 2016 as a program to honor former Franklin and Hayden high school students, administrators, teachers and staff who have excelled or distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional success, as well as to recognize those community members who have made significant contributions to the public schools in Franklin.

“The Wall” is located at Franklin High School, adjacent to the gymnasium, a recent Wall of Excellence news release stated. Names and photos of each inductee are displayed for generations of Franklin High School students and community members to see as they walk by on their way to class or an event at FHS.

ROBERT E. CARTER

The induction ceremony program noted that Carter became head coach of a youth football team named the Sedley Mustangs in 1980, and he arranged to have the name changed to the Franklin Mustangs since the team practiced and played in Franklin, and most of its players came from there too.

“Over his 40-plus years of involvement with the youth football program, Coach Carter has impacted the lives of thousands of young men,” the program noted. “During his time spent coaching, the Franklin Mustangs became known as one of the most successful youth sports programs in the city of Franklin and in the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton.”

The Mustangs racked up some undefeated seasons and many local championships.

Nancy Parrish introduced Carter at the ceremony, having known him since early childhood. She also had a son who played for him.

She noted that Carter taught that there was no “i” in team, and she described him as an ideal football coach.

“When one thinks of an ideal football coach, there are several qualities that come to mind, and there are seven that are considered as the most important qualities of any good coach,” she said. “These include being a good role model, a good teacher, a good listener, a good communicator, a team motivator, a mentor who is genuinely concerned about their players beyond the playing field or the court, and a person who cannot only instill a vision within their team but help to lead them in obtaining this goal.”

She said Carter worked tirelessly in orchestrating fundraisers to make sure his players had all the equipment they needed.

“We, as a community, owe a debt of gratitude to Coach Carter for the impact that he has had on our youth for over two decades,” she said.

Before he got started with his acceptance speech, Carter said, “Let me say I’m proud to be a member of the Class of 1974 at Franklin High School. I’m very proud of that. I will always be a Bronco.”

He noted that he was honored and humbled by the Wall of Excellence induction.

Outlining some of Mustangs history, he said they won their first league championship in 1986.

Then they won back-to-back-to-back championships from 1989-91.

“That is when we started having pride in our football program, making a tradition in our football program,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t take pride in things, you’ll never be successful in life. And I tried to instill in these kids — you take pride in your schoolwork, you take pride in your family, you take pride in your school and you take pride in that game jersey that you’re getting ready to put on and play in tomorrow night.”

The program grew from having only around 20 players or fewer to well more than 80-90 players on the teams.

“In 33 years, from 1986-2019, the Mustangs played for every championship except two,” he said. “We won 18, we lost 15. You can’t win ‘em all, but we gave ourselves a chance to win. Our kids were having fun.”

Carter thanked his many assistant coaches over the years, the supportive parents of his players and the community that has always been gracious to the team.

“But most of all, it couldn’t have been done without the young men that wanted to be a Franklin Mustang,” he said. “I tried to treat all the kids the same — no matter who you were or where you came from, it didn’t make any difference to me. All I wanted was a football player and somebody that was going to listen and try to produce. I loved them all.

“That was a volunteer thing, but my ‘paycheck’ comes probably three or four times a week,” he added. “I’ll see some of my old boys at the YMCA. I saw some of them last night at the Franklin High School game. I’ll see them (all) over town, different places, and they come by, they see me, I don’t recognize all of them now because they’re grown up, they’ve got hair on their face, but they’ll tell me who they are, because they speak, and they say, ‘Hey, Coach.’ All the money in the world can’t replace that.”

“It’s been my privilege to work with the youth of our community,” he said.