John Carter, Film Editor on ‘Friday’ and ‘Lean on Me,’ Dies at 95

His career spanned four decades, during which he put his editing touch to more than 50 feature films

lean on me friday john carter editor obit
"Lean on Me," left, John Carter, center, and "Friday" (Warner Bros./ Carter Family/ New Line)

John Carter, a pioneering African-American film editor behind such films as “Friday,” “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit,” “Lean on Me” and the Academy Award-nominated Martin Luther King documentary “King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis,” has died. He was 95 years old.

Carter, the first black member of the American Cinema Editors, died peacefully on Aug. 13 at his home in White Plains, New York, his family reported.

His career spanned four decades, during which he put his editing touch to more than 50 feature films, including 1968’s “Paper Lion,” “The Formula,” starring Marlon Brando and “Karate Kid Part III.” Carter also served as editor for a number of black-centric films, such as “The Five Heartbeats” — a musical drama loosely based on The Temptations and The Four Tops — “Boomerang,” “Set it Off,” “Soul Food” and “The Wood.”

He was also the editor for the 1984 film “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey,” which Gordon Parks directed based on the book “Twelve Years a Slave.” The film paved the way for later movies such as “Amistad,” “Django Unchained,” and the most recent adaptation of Northup’s memoir, the Academy Award-winning “12 Years a Slave,” according to The National Endowment for the Humanities.

Carter’s three-hour documentary “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis,” which was nominated for best feature doc in 1971, documents King’s life from the 1955 bus boycott in Alabama to his assassination, featuring appearances by Paul Newman, Brando, Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones.

Carter, along with co-editor Lora Hays, cut the doc by hand, and it was screened as a “one-time only” nationwide event in 1,000 theaters on March 24, 1970. In 1999 was enshrined into the National Film Registry.

After being honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 Carter trained at the New York Institute of Photography and the Brooklyn Institute of Motion Picture Production.

Upon graduating, he went into an apprenticeship program at the Signal Corps Pictorial Center for film editing, where he worked until leaving in 1956 to become the first African-American film editor to be employed by network television in New York at CBS-TV.

For the last four of his twelve years with CBS, he served as the supervising film editor for the award-winning documentary unit, “Eye On New York.” In 1968, he left CBS to form his own company John Carter Associates, Inc., where his first film was the George Plimpton film “Paper Lion,” staring Alan Alda.

Carter has worked with a number of young filmmakers and prominent directors, including Tyler Perry, Tim Story, Bill Duke, F. Gary Gray and George Tillman.