FORT LAUDERDALE — A local religious giant whose impact and influence reached well beyond South Florida completed his transition from the temporal to the eternal last week. The Rev. Dr. Mack King Carter, retired senior pastor of Fort Lauderdale’s New Mount Olive Baptist Church died suddenly on Wednesday, Oct. 2. He was 66.
A native of Ocala, where he first became involved in ministerial work as a child, Carter was an accomplished theological academic and a dynamic speaker. He talked about the relationship between his roles as both an instructor and a recruiter during his farewell sermon, given at his retirement just four years ago.
Carter said that “preaching is for unbelievers” and, conversely, teaching is for believers.
Eugene Pettis, current head of the Florida Bar Association, also a friend of Carter and a member of New Mount Olive, said he remains amazed at the late pastor’s encyclopedic memory.
“He had such a wealth of knowledge,” said Pettis. Coupled with his remarkable ability to “memorize everyone’s name,” Carter was, according to Pettis, “an incredible people person.”
The teaching and preaching are pillars of Carter’s legacy. The explosion in membership at New Mount Olive when he came “home” to Florida in the early 1980s – after years of work and study in Kentucky – is testament to his success.
Membership in the church that already was a fixture on the Fort Lauderdale landscape more than doubled to about 10,000 at the time of his retirement.
Carter was known by many outside of Broward County thanks in no small part to books, lectures and sermons, through which he reached millions.
A lawsuit filed by members of New Mount Olive’s former Board of Trustees, eventually dismissed, alleged that he and his wife improperly appropriated proceeds from the sale of videotaped sermons, resulting in divisions within the congregation and a tinge on the investments of the popular and revered minister.
Perhaps offering inspiration for an epitaph and a eulogy, Carter spoke of redemption in his farewell sermon in 2009 and observed, with a smile, that “it pays to serve Jesus.”
In addition to his more than quarter century at the helm of New Mount Olive, Carter was actively involved in the church for four decades. His service was not limited only to the pulpit.
Carter formed the nonprofit Mount Olive development Corp. (MODCO), the idea for which was first published in A Quest for Freedom, one of four books he authored.
Designed as a catalyst for revitalizing black communities across the United States, MODCO has served tens of thousands of families with services such as housing assistance, substance dependence programs, hunger abatement, geriatric and childhood services, job training, programs for people with HIV/AIDS and more.
Carter held numerous traditional and honorary degrees from institutions such as Central Florida Community College, the University of Florida, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Florida Memorial University and Bethune Cookman University.
He was an outspoken activist as well.
In 2008, when noted pastor the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright was assailed by conservatives and abandoned by liberals for controversial comments during then-candidate Barack Obama’s campaign, Carter vigorously defended the Chicago minister.
“Interestingly, Dr. Carter was also “highly sensitive to being accepted,” said Pettis. “He wanted to be loved. He was absolutely successful. He left behind thousands of admirers.”
Carter is survived by his wife Patricia, daughters Annalisa Robinson-Melton and Pamela Latrice Johnson, and grandchildren Brittany N. Robinson and Carter Nathaniel Johnson.
Homegoing services will be held this Thursday at First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale.
Memorial services are planned for him this week in three different locations: Fort Lauderdale, Ocala, and Miami.
Carter’s widow, Patricia Carter, said that instead of flowers, donations can be made to Dr. Mack King Carter Memorial, Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Avenue, Miami Gardens.
For more information call 305-626-3600.