Eunice Carter

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Eunice Carter
Eunice Roberta Hunton

(1899-07-16)July 16, 1899
DiedJanuary 25, 1970(1970-01-25) (aged 70)
Alma mater
EmployerManhattan District Attorney
Known forprosecution of mobster Charlie "Lucky" Luciano
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Lisle Carter, Sr.
ChildrenLisle Carter, Jr

Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter (July 16, 1899 – January 25, 1970) was an American lawyer. She was one of New York's first female African-American lawyers, and one of the first prosecutors of color in the United States. She was active in the Pan-African Congress and in United Nations committees to advance the status of women in the world. She led a massive prostitution racketeering investigation, building the case and strategy that allowed New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey to successfully charge Mafioso kingpin Charles "Lucky" Luciano with compulsory prostitution.

Early life and education[edit]

Carter was born in Atlanta in 1899, the daughter of William Alphaeus Hunton, Sr. (founder of the black division of the Y.M.C.A.) and Addie Waites Hunton (a social worker); both were college educated. Her paternal grandfather Stanton Hunton purchased his freedom from slavery before the American Civil War. Her brother, W. Alphaeus Hunton, Jr., was an author, academic and activist noted for his involvement with the Council on African Affairs and promotion of Pan-African identity.[3] The family moved from Atlanta to Brooklyn, New York after the 1906 Atlanta race riot. They attended local schools. Their mother, Addie Hunton, was active with the NAACP and the YMCA, achieving national status. She was selected as one of two women to go to France during World War I to check on the condition of United States black servicemen.

Eunice graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, receiving a Bachelor's and a Master's degree. After a brief time as a social worker, she decided to study law. She became the first black woman to receive a law degree from Fordham University in New York City (Gray, 2007, n.p). In mid-May 1933, Eunice Carter passed the New York bar exam (Two New York Women, 6).


Carter soon established a career in both law and international politics. In 1935 Carter became the first black woman assistant district attorney in the state of New York. As assistant DA, she determined that Mafia boss Lucky Luciano must be involved in prostitution.[4] Carter then put together a massive prostitution racketeering case that eventually implicated Luciano. She convinced New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey to personally prosecute the case. Luciano was convicted and served ten years, and then was deported. The conviction was described by Luciano biographer Tim Newark as, "a land-mark in legal history as it was the first against a major organized crime figure for anything other than tax evasion".[5] The case generated national fame for Dewey, which he rode to election as the governor of New York. He also made two unsuccessful runs for the White House, one against President Harry S. Truman. Dewey benefited from Carter's prosecutorial skills, and had genuine respect for her. She frequently accompanied him to political events in Harlem and elsewhere, and reporters noted that she offered him advice. ("Judge Paige," 6)

Active in the Pan-African Congress in the 1920s, Carter later became active in the United Nations, serving on committees that advocated improving the status of women ("Eunice Carter," 14). In addition to her work for the UN, she also served on the Executive Committee of the International Council of Women, an organization with representatives from 37 countries. ("U.S. Women's Unit," 9) Additionally, she served on the board of the Y.W.C.A. (Gray, 2007, n.p.)

Marriage and family[edit]

Hunton married Lisle Carter, Sr., who was one of the first African-American dentists in New York. They lived for many years in Harlem, Manhattan. The couple's only child, Lisle Carter, Jr., graduated from college and law school. He practiced law and later worked in the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential administrations as a political appointee. Lisle Carter, Jr. had five children, one of whom is author and Yale Law professor Stephen L. Carter, who published a biography in 2018 about Eunice Carter entitled Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster.[6] In this biography of his paternal grandmother, Prof. Carter includes "the possibility of a long-running affair with jazz musician Fletcher Henderson." The biography also notes the imprisonment of Eunice's brother W. Alphaeus Hunton, Jr. for his communist beliefs, and the consequent estrangement between the two siblings. [7]


  1. ^ "Eunice Carter". The Mob Museum. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  2. ^ Burbank, Jeff (March 8, 2016). "EUNICE CARTER: KEY PLAYER IN LUCIANO CONVICTION". The Mob Museum. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  3. ^ Dorothy K. Hunton, Alphaeus Hunton: The Unsung Valiant, self-published, Richmond Hill, New York; 1986
  4. ^ Whalen, Robert Weldon (2016). Murder, Inc., and the Moral Life: Gangsters and Gangbusters in La Guardia's New York. Fordham University Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780823271559.
  5. ^ Whalen, Robert Weldon (2016). Murder, Inc., and the Moral Life: Gangsters and Gangbusters in La Guardia's New York. Fordham University Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780823271559.
  6. ^ Henderson, Cinque (7 December 2018). "Daughter of the black elite who brought down a gangster". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  7. ^ Weinman, Sarah (9 December 2018). [ "He Put Away Lucky Luciano"] Check |url= value (help). The New York Times Book Review: 25. Retrieved 28 December 2018.


  • "Eunice Hunton Carter", Women's Legal History, Stanford University
  • "Eunice Carter To Be Abroad Seven Weeks." Chicago Defender, 14 March 1956, p. 14.
  • "Carter, Eunice Roberta Hunton 1899 - 1970,". Women’s Legal History. Stanford University. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
  • Dawn Bradley Berry, The 50 Most Influential Women in American Law. Los Angeles: Contemporary Books (1996).
  • Jessie Carney Smith (Editor), Notable Black American Women. Detroit : Gale Research (1992)
  • Barbara Sicherman and Carol Hurd Green (Editors), Notable American Women: The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (1980)
  • Gray, Madison (January 12, 2007). "Eunice Hunton Carter: Mob Buster". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-12. Black History Month 2007
  • "Judge Paige, Miss Carter on Up Grade." Chicago Defender, 13 November 1937, p. 6.
  • "Two New York Women Pass Bar Examinations." Chicago Defender, 20 May 1933, p. 6.
  • "U.S. Women's Unit at Vienna Parley." New York Times, 7 May 1959, p. 9.
  • Dorothy K. Hunton, Alphaeus Hunton: The Unsung Valiant, Self-published, New York, 1986 (life of W. A. Hunton, Jr.)