Alfred “Bucket” Carter, a gifted storyteller who paraded for 75 consecutive years with the Young Men Olympian Jr. Benevolent Association, died March 9 of heart disease outside his doctor’s office. He was 80.
The club, like dozens of other New Orleans “social aid and pleasure clubs,” holds an annual parade; it also takes part in funeral second-line processions for members.
“He was the ambassador of the old second-line,” said Bertrand Butler, a Young Men Olympian honorary member for 25 years. “He danced the original way, the classy way.”
At funerals, Carter taught younger members how to step to the slower dirges that bands play for funeral processions.
Carter grew up in New Orleans near South Liberty and First streets, where his mother ran a beauty salon. As a young man, he was hired as a laborer at the K&B Warehouse, a job he would hold for more than 30 years.
Outside of work, he focused on his church and on Young Men Olympian, with whom he started parading when he was 5. He prided himself on being with the club’s First Division, which always led the parade in traditional dress with a traditional-style brass band.
“He was the face of YMO,” said fellow member and trumpeter Gregg Stafford, noting that for Carter, the club went far beyond fans and alligator shoes, because Young Men Olympian, unlike most social aid and pleasure clubs, continues to serve as a benevolent society, caring for members when they’re sick and when they die.
So if Stafford was touring the world playing music, Carter kept his friend’s dues current until he returned. When new members joined, he explained the club’s role and the importance of its bylaws.
Carter often noted that the various clubs’ almost weekly parades were six hours long for decades, until the 1960s, when Police Superintendent Joseph Giarrusso announced that the parades would be trimmed by two hours. It was an ultimatum that the clubs accepted because they had no choice, he told Tamara Jackson, the head of the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force, when the clubs were discussing whether to sue the city over high parade fees in 2007. “Keep fighting. It will benefit everyone,” he told her.
Carter never missed YMO’s September parade. “He didn’t miss a year. This guy didn’t waver,” said his longtime friend Norman Dixon Jr. Even last fall, as his health became frail, he insisted on participating, though he rode most of the parade route in a car.
“My daddy was 80, but he thought he was 20. He was young at heart,” said his daughter, Nitra Crowder. In fact, on the day he died, he had turned down a ride to his regular doctor’s appointment, saying, “It’s a sunny day. I’ll take the bus.” When he got off the bus near the doctor’s office, he collapsed.
For decades, Carter was a consistent, charismatic presence at the city’s Sunday second-line parades. He met both his wives at the processions.
As his health declined, his family began to fret about him going to parades and standing in the hot sun. Still, he would manage to sneak off. “We would go to church, and then he’d tell us he was going to visit his friends,” Crowder said. “When he came home, we’d find out he’d gone to the second-line.”
Carter also served as a sounding board to nearly everyone who knew him. “I don’t get the guys with the baggy pants, but he did,” Dixon said. “He had open ears and a way of communicating with people of all ages.” In conversations, Carter often put the present into context by telling stories of the past. “He always said, ‘If you know where you came from, you know what you’re a part of,’ ” Dixon said.
Survivors include his companion, Ruby Picot; two sons, Drextel and Carl Stewart, of New Orleans; three daughters, Crowder of Plano, Texas, Chiquita Press, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Belva Carter, of New Orleans; a sister, Lodellia Evans, of Houston; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Israelite Baptist Church, 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Visitation will begin at 8 a.m. A traditional jazz funeral procession will begin at noon.
A repast in his honor will be held afterward at the Young Men Olympian Junior Benevolent Association Hall, 2101 S. Liberty St. Interment will be in the Young Men Olympian tomb in Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.