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Don Carter, former DNR board member and namesake of state park, dies at age 86
Don Carter visits Don Carter State Park in July 2013 as it opened to the public for the first time.

Don Carter, the namesake of Don Carter State Park who served 29 years on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources board, died Thursday, Feb. 7, at the age of 86.

During his time with the DNR, the state bought some 300,000 acres, including land in North Hall for what would become the state park that opened July 15, 2013. The 1,316-acre park was the first state park in Hall County and on Lake Lanier.

The park’s name was announced in 2002 at the end of Carter’s DNR career.

Abit Massey said the park is a reflection of Carter’s legacy because he wanted to see an outdoor space people could enjoy regardless of income level.

“It’s exciting to see families go out there and enjoying the park. … He wanted to see it grow, and he wanted to see it used by a lot of people,” Massey said.

Carter was born in Detroit but moved to the area and graduated from Gainesville High School. He went on to get his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University in Macon.

Carter started his career working a couple of years for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, then moved on to a 10-year career in the poultry industry. He also founded Don Carter Realty Co. in 1967.

Massey, the president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, knew Carter through the poultry industry and attending First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

“He enjoyed knowing people, and he enjoyed making things happen and improving things,” Massey said. “He had a good sense of humor, he loved the outdoors and he did probably more than anybody else about developing state resources and property in Georgia.”

Carter was a founding director in 1988 of Gainesville Bank & Trust and received the Gainesville Jaycees Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

Along with Massey, Philip Wilheit Sr. knew Carter through Gainesville Bank & Trust, and he said Carter was “the conscience of our board.” The three were part of a group who started the bank, which was sold to SunTrust in 2008.

“He would always, always do the right thing,” Wilheit said.

Through his work on the DNR board, Carter was able to bring improvements to area parks and Lake Lanier, Wilheit said.

“Don was always very instrumental in looking after Hall County,” he said.

Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory is handling funeral arrangements, which will be announced later.

Staff writers Jeff Gill and Megan Reed contributed to this article.

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