Athlete. Born May 6, 1937, in Clifton, New Jersey. In 1966, at the height of his boxing career, Carter was wrongly convicted—twice—of a triple murder and imprisoned for nearly two decades. During the mid-1970s, his case became a cause celébrè for a number of civil rights leaders, politicians, and entertainers. He was ultimately exonerated, in 1985, after a United States district court judge declared the convictions to be based on racial prejudice.
Carter, who grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested and sent to the Jamesburg State Home for Boys at age 12 after he attacked a man with a Boy Scout knife. He claimed the man was a pedophile who had been attempting to molest one of his friends. Carter escaped before his six-year term was up and in 1954 he joined the Army, where he served in a segregated corps and began training as a boxer. He won two European light-welterweight championships and in 1956 returned to Paterson with the intention of becoming a professional boxer. Almost immediately upon his return, police arrested Carter and forced him to serve the remaining 10 months of his sentence in a state reformatory.
In 1957, Carter was again arrested, this time for purse snatching; he spent four years in Trenton State, a maximum-security prison, for that crime. After his release, he channeled his considerable anger, towards his situation and that of Paterson's African-American community, into his boxing—he turned pro in 1961 and began a startling four-fight winning streak, including two knockouts. For his lightning-fast fists, Carter soon earned the nickname "Hurricane" and became one of the top contenders for the world middleweight crown. In December 1963, in a non-title bout, he beat then-welterweight world champion Emile Griffith in a first round KO. Although he lost his one shot at the title, in a 15-round split decision to reigning champion Joey Giardello in December 1964, he was widely regarded as a good bet to win his next title bout.
As one of...
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