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Bronxville's John Mack Carter, Acclaimed Editor Of Women's Magazines, 86

John Mack Carter, 86
John Mack Carter, 86 Photo Credit:

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- John Mack Carter, a storied magazine editor who headed three of the nation's top women's magazines, including a 20-year stint at Good Housekeeping, died Friday at his home in Bronxville after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 86.

“John Mack Carter was one of the most successful and influential editors of his time,” said William R. Hearst III, chairman of the board of Hearst Corp. “He was a leader in every aspect of the business and he will be missed by the entire Hearst family.”

Carter spent six decades in magazines and was the editor who shaped a new agenda for women’s magazines in the pre-feminist era. He edited McCall’s, then Ladies’ Home Journal and ultimately Good Housekeeping, and is the only person in publishing history to have headed all three.

In an interview he stated, “Power is the big issue that divides men and women. Men hold power, women want power, but men are reluctant to give it — any of it— away.”

His magazines reflected his ever-evolving consciousness, and he became one of the first male members of the Association for Women in Communications. He remained an advocate for women for the rest of his career, speaking out on issues ranging from equal rights to sexual harassment.

“When John Mack became editor of Good Housekeeping, he faced a formidable challenge of invigorating the magazine without alienating its loyal core readers,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst Corp. “Along with modernizing its content, he had a solution in 1975 that is today’s industry standard: Put celebrities on the cover. The idea was revolutionary at the time and massive, immediate circulation growth followed. His vision and leadership played an important role in the growth of this company."

A Murray, Ky., native who attended Murray State University before transferring to the University of Missouri, where he earned his master’s in journalism in 1949, Carter remained loyal to his roots. He received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Murray State University in 1971.

In addition to his editorial and executive duties, Carter wrote a monthly column on magazines for Adweek for nine years.

Carter was fervently involved in non-industry causes, earning the Congressional Families Action for Cancer Awareness Award. He was a co-founder of the New York City Race for the Cure and also volunteered with the American Cancer Society and the Christian Church Foundation.

Carter served on presidential commissions on human need under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was honored by Kennedy when he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Year in 1963 by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1976, he was appointed by President Gerald R. Ford and later reappointed by President Jimmy Carter to a national commission in observance of the International Women's Year.

A Bronxville, N.Y., resident for 47 years, Carter is survived by his wife of 66 years, Sharlyn Reaves Carter; his children, Jonna Carter and John Mack Carter II; son-in-law John R. Low; daughter-in-law Victoria Carter; and four grandchildren, John Mack Carter III, Christina Victoria Carter, Kathleen Elizabeth Carter Low and Christopher Ryan Carter Low. He is also survived by his twin sister, Carolyn Carter Reagan; brother-in-law Johnny Reagan; nieces Jan Reagan Fuqua and Lyn Reagan Ryan; and nephews Danny Grant, David Grant, Dean Grant and Donald Grant.

There will be a funeral for family and friends in Bronxville next week. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Andrus Early Learning Center, 65 Main St., Third Floor, Tuckahoe, N.Y. 10707; (Alessandra Rose 914-965-3700 ext. 1241).

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