Darrell B. Carter, optometrist, champion of diversity, civil rights
Dr. Darrell B. Carter, a resident of Glen Ellen, and formerly of Oakland, passed away peacefully on January 20, 2020 in Kenwood, at the age of 95. Dr. Carter was born in the Los Angeles area on August 16, 1924. He was the patriarch of a large and accomplished family and had a remarkable life as a first-generation college graduate, WWII veteran, civil rights activist, educator, academic, scientist, clinician, politician, public servant, “gentleman farmer,” ardent Democrat, father, husband, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Darrell is survived by his wife of 30 years, Mary Kate Carter; his four daughters Lisa Ellis (Geoffrey Ellis), Susan Carter (John Purnell), Janet Carter and Beverly Thomas (Marcus Thomas); two step-daughters Elizabeth Morris-Mowrey and Donna Bryant; six grandchildren and two step-grandchildren, Gregory Dachner, Sumaya Bezrati, Edward Kumar, Andre Kumar, Alison Thomas Cody, Stephen Thomas, Harlan Bryant and Quintin Bryant; and three great-grandchildren. He is proceeded in death by his grandson David Ellis and his son-in-law Jerry Kumar.
A child of the Great Depression, at 19 years old Darrell enlisted in the 99th Army Infantry Division as a medic to fight the Nazis in World War II. He was in the Battle of the Bulge and volunteered to stay behind with injured soldiers when the Allied troops were forced to retreat. He was wounded by shrapnel during the battle and captured. He spent three months in a German POW camp and watched Dresden burn in the wake of the Allied firebombing. He received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Combat Medical Badge for his valor and service.
After the war Darrell went to college on the GI bill, and received his O.D. from the Los Angeles School of Optometry and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at UCLA. He received a Ph.D. in Physiological Optics from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry in 1957.
It was at UCLA that Darrell met his first wife, Bernice Brucker Carter Vincent. He and Bernice married and raised their four daughters before divorcing in the 1980s.
After receiving his Ph.D., Darrell and the family moved to Houston, Texas, where he spent 10 years on the University of Houston faculty. They returned to UC Berkeley in 1964 where he joined the clinical faculty at the School of Optometry. When he wasn’t attending Cal Bears football and basketball games, he specialized in clinical optometry/binocular vision anomalies, and the role of optometry in the detection and management of ocular disease. He was Director of the Ocular Disease Clinic, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Director of the Aniseikonia and Special Refraction Clinic and Chair of the Admissions Committee. He was known for his continuing efforts to improve diversity in the student population at UCBSO, and encouraged the Admissions Committee to diversify its student body as well as reaching out to many women, persons of color, and non-traditional students to apply to the school. Dr. Carter retired in 1994 but was rehired as the director of continuing education for the school and served in that capacity until 2000. In February 2014 he was inducted into the UC Berkeley School of Optometry Hall of Fame. He has been honored with Life Membership in both the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association.
After his retirement Darrell moved from Oakland to Glen Ellen, where he and Mary Kate maintained a small vineyard. He loved Sonoma County and often talked with pride about his grapevines and the fact that the county was solidly Democratic and left-leaning.
Darrell was passionate about political issues for his entire life. He was active in the Civil Rights movement and worked very hard to abolish the poll tax in Texas in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. He was also very active in the anti-war movement of the sixties and early seventies, and with their mother took his daughters to their first anti-war rally when they were not yet teenagers. He took a leadership role in many Democratic political campaigns in both Texas and California, and ultimately ran for public office himself, serving as an elected precinct captain in Houston and later as a member and then president of the Peralta Community College District Board in the Oakland/Berkeley East Bay for two terms.
Darrell was always generous and cared greatly for his family, friends, students and colleagues. He had a passion for travel and particularly loved Great Britain and Australia, countries he visited multiple times. When the opportunity to take a sabbatical arose at Berkeley, however, he chose Mexico City over London, not in small part so that his children would have the opportunity to learn a second language. His grandkids grew up taking trips with Grandpa Darrell and Stepgrandma Mary Kate and cousins to destinations all over the world and believe those trips made them better people.
His family urges you to remember him today by helping a friend, planting a garden, reading a newspaper or three, working on a political campaign, and making your plan to vote in the upcoming elections. Donations in his memory can be made to the UC Berkeley Athletic Funds, at www.calathleticsfund.com/, or the Cal Fund at calfund.berkeley.edu/. Go Bears!