The story of a strong black woman lawyer, responsible for taking down America’s most notorious mobster,has for a long time been floating in Stephen Carter’s mind. The woman, Eunice Hunton Carter, was actually his grandmother. Though as a child he knew very little of her illustrious career, after learning everything, he had the burning desire to remind everyone of the great achievements she brought to America.
Born in Atlanta, she went to Smith College and Fordham University law school. She later became the first black woman to be appointed as an assistant district attorney in New York for a team that was mandated to take down Charles “Lucky” Luciano – the Italian-born mobster notorious for masterminding organized crime. After becoming a successful lawyer, Atlanta Journal writes that, “A run for a seat in the state legislature and her early attempts at launching her own law firm were not successful but in 1935 special prosecutor Thomas Dewey, the future governor of New York and future presidential candidate, appointed Eunice to a team of lawyers charged with taking down the mob.”
Of his grandmother, Carter recalls, ““When she was alive she was this huge intimidating figure in my life and the lives of my four siblings who was always correcting our grammar or our use of the wrong fork at the dinner table. When she died I began to hear these stories.”
Carter decided to bring her forgotten story to life and make others aware of what she did, doing so through his new book, “Invisible,” (Henry Holt, $30). And with the release, he will be appearing at the Atlanta History Center for a lecture on Nov. 13th as part of the Center’s author program series.
Carter is a longtime law professor at Yale University, but more than anything he is well known as a novelist. He has also published eight non-fictions. The professor also adds that every time he completes a book, he moves on to the next. It’s, however, different this time because “Invisible” continues to fascinate him.
“Usually when I write a book, I don’t want to talk about the book. This one I love talking about because Eunice’s story is so inspiring and I am really grateful to have the opportunity to tell her story,” Carter said.
All across the country, newspapers ran headlines about the only black woman to be appointed. And Carter says, “She was a celebrity just for being hired. It was something I hadn’t fully appreciated.”
As Carter continued with his research, he discovered a lot about her. And in the process learned how difficult it was for his grandmother to navigate black high society in Harlem to get to where she was.
AJC also writes Carter learned that, “He learned from his father that Eunice was a key figure in the famous trial against Lucky Luciano. In the book, Carter offers the details of how Eunice was relegated to handling vice cases that Dewey deemed unimportant yet she managed to cobble together the only strategy that could link Luciano to an actual crime with real evidence. In 1936 the case went to trial with Eunice sitting in the wings with the other spectators instead of at the table in the front of the courtroom with her fellow attorneys. She must have been miffed given all the effort she had put into the case but she never appeared ruffled.”
She later died in 1970 after a long life of achievements. Carter was in high school when she passed on and he says that she will continue being a great impact in his life.