After long road, path still clear
By Jay Grelen, reprinted courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009
Early in his life, Paul Carter had two choices, each about the same distance from the house where he was born 69 years ago.
The dirt road in front of his house cut north to Star City or south to Monticello.
Carter chose Monticello, a road that eventually led him to a career with an Arkansas company that has developed something of a reputation.
When he retired in 2003, Carter was the chief financial officer for Wal-Mart.
Carter’s life is the story of Arkansas, of America, says Jasper Howard, a longtime friend.
“Paul reaches through many layers of people,” says Howard, who lives in Texarkana, Texas. “His bond is his handshake.”
One of Carter’s first decisions was his best. He and his wife, June, elementary-school sweethearts, have been married more than 50 years.
His original career path was to major in math at University of Arkansas at Monticello and coach for a living. The summer before college, however, he umpired Little League baseball. One season of Little League parents led him to study accounting.
He started his career with Howard at Gibson’s. After Howard’s family sold that business, Carter took a job with Sam Walton.
Howard quotes high praise from Walton, who once told Carter: “One of the better things that happened to me was when you came over the Boston Mountains to work with us.”
About 10 years ago, Carter survived kidney cancer. Doctors discovered in May that it had returned. After a stay at M.D. Anderson, Carter is back in Bentonville with his family standing vigil.
Saturday afternoon, Carter dispensed fatherly advice. To a granddaughter: Work hard. Study hard. Make a difference in the world.
To a grandson, who is studying the law: Take a 40-hour job next summer so you will know what it’s like to work like the rest of the world.
“He told my mother to be sure we get the bills paid on time,” says his son, Steve, a lawyer. “He told me don’t argue so much.”
On Friday, Steve helped his father compose a letter: His parents taught him about God, who is so powerful that he “spoke the world into existence. ... He loves me enough to save me through his Son,” he wrote. “My parents taught me integrity is not just a fancy word. It is the moral obligation to do what you say you will do ...”
Saturday afternoon, Carter was “extraordinarily peaceful,” Steve reported. “He’s confident of the things he expressed in the letter. This is a transition, not an end.”
Paul Carter, 69, died Oct. 31, 2009, after a decade-long battle with cancer. He served on the board of trustees for 25 years. He retired from Wal-Mart as chief financial officer in 2003 and was a member of Bentonville Church of Christ where he was an elder. He is survived by his wife, June Webb; two sons, Steve (’82) and Sam (’00); a daughter, Stephanie Howell (’87); seven grandchildren; and a great-grandson. (9656 E Hwy. 72, Bentonville, AR 72712)