Darnell Carter, c. 1975 (1953-Present)

Darnell Carter, 1975 Concordia graduateDarnell Carter attended Concordia College from 1971-1975 after growing up in Springfield, Ohio. He became involved in several organizations including Alpha Epsilon Sigma, the Concordian, and Harambee Weuse, the Black Student Union. Graduating from Concordia with degrees in history and English literature, Carter went on to study at Drake University Law School. He enjoyed a successful law career as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Clark County, Ohio from 1980-2008. Carter has also taught high school English, earned a master’s degree in history from Ohio State, and in 2018 received Concordia’s Alumni Achievement Award.
Darnell Carter was born on January 24, 1953 to Maxine and Darnell Carter Sr. in Springfield, Ohio where he grew up with his older sister Nancy and his younger brother Michael. Carter’s father was the sheriff’s deputy and jail warden of the Clark County Jail. Carter graduated from Springfield South High School in 1971, and then attended Concordia from 1971-75, graduating with a double major in history and English literature. [1]

During his time at Concordia, Carter was involved in numerous activities. In the spring of his freshman year, Carter became the first black student to pledge Alpha Epsilon Sigma. For employment he wrote for the Concordia school newspaper as the sports writer and worked in both dining services and student productions which coordinated entertainment on campus. He was also active in Harambe Weuse, the Black Student Union, which brought African American track superstar Jesse Owens to campus. Carter played intramural basketball during all four years at Concordia. During his junior and senior years, he was part of the intramural championship team called The Brotherhood. Carter attended a May Seminar which traveled to Cricklewood, a suburb of London, England in 1975. [2]

Following graduation, Carter attended Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa at the suggestion of his freshman roommate, graduating in 1979. Carter had been interested in law since his cousin’s boyfriend, Ralph Stinnett, was killed in a fight at his high school in 1965. The killer was acquitted in court on account of self-defense, though Carter believed he had violated the right to self-defense by introducing a knife to the fight and ignoring the duty to retreat. Carter taught English at Springfield South High School while he waited for the results of the bar exam. In 1980, Carter became an assistant prosecuting attorney for Clark County, Ohio. [3]

Early in his career, Carter helped set the precedent for DNA testing in Ohio courts. In 1988, twenty-one-year-old Bridget Buxton’s body was discovered by fishermen in the Mad River. Carter’s investigation revealed that DNA of her fiancé’s brother, Jeffrey Blair, was present on both her body and the interior of her car. DNA evidence had never been used in Clark County before, so Carter and his team had to convince the jury of its legitimacy. Blair was convicted of murder and DNA evidence gradually became a mainstream investigative tool in criminal and civil cases throughout Ohio. [4]

The Buxton murder case helped Carter make a name for himself in the state of Ohio. In 1993, Governor George Voinovich organized a team of the state’s best prosecutors to try the cases for a prison riot in Lucasville. Carter was one of the sixteen attorneys selected. The Lucasville riot of April 1993 was one of the largest in United States history. It included a ten-day standoff between guards and prisoners in which prisoners killed nine inmates and one guard. Carter was commended by the governor for his work on the cases. Referring to himself as “somewhat of a homicide felony specialist,” Carter also earned the Gold Star Award from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections. In a career spanning three decades, Carter tried many high-profile cases for Clark County and received the Outstanding Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Award for the state of Ohio in 2007. The following year he received the Ohio State University Humanities Alumni Award of Distinction and the Springfield Community Award of Excellence. He retired from law in 2008. [5]

For Black History Month every February since 2013, Carter and his brother Michael have given a public presentation at Sinclair Community College about the role of sports in racial integration. The pair also teach the course “African Americans in Sports since 1900” at the University of Dayton and Carter lectures about criminal justice at Wittenberg University. Michael is a member of the Ohio Diversity Council. In retirement, Darnell Carter spends his time as a criminal defense lawyer and as an assistant football coach for Springfield High School. He also serves for the Clark County Park Board and Historical Society. He has written numerous columns for the Springfield newspaper. In 2017, Carter received the Meritorious Service Award for his work in the Clark County prosecutor’s office. In 2018, Carter received the Concordia Alumni Achievement Award. [6]

Authors: Thomas E. Froland and Laura L. Fregin


[1] Tom Archdeacon, “Carter brothers bring history to life,” Dayton Daily News, 13 February 2013, https://www.daytondailynews.com/sports/carter-brothers-bring-history-lif... Darnell Carter, interview with Dr. Richard M. Chapman, Moorhead, MN, 28 September 2018, transcribed by Thomas E. Froland and Laura L. Fregin, audio file and transcript, Concordia College Archives (CCA).
[2] Carter interview.
[3] Carter interview; Amy E. Kelly, “Time for Second Chances,” Concordia Magazine 51, no. 1 (Fall 2012): 8-11. Retrieved from CCA.
[4] Kelly, “Second Chances.”
[5] Kelly, “Second Chances;” Carter interview.
[6] Archdeacon, “Carter brothers;” “Michael Carter,” Ohio Diversity Council, http://www.ohiodiversitycouncil.org/about-us/advisory-board/dayton/micha... Amy E. Kelly, “Time for Second Chances;” Katherine Collins, “Springfield High football players sentenced for recorded robbery,” Springfield News-Sun, 31 August 2016, https://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/crime--law/springfield-high-foot... “Prosecutors in the Community,” Clark County, http://www.clarkcountyohio.gov/index.aspx?nid=198.; “Alumni Achievement and Sent Forth Award Recipients,” Concordia College, https://www.concordiacollege.edu/alumni/awards-and-recognition/alumni-ac....