Joseph Daniel “Joe” Carter, Texas state representative, Texas state senator, and state water commissioner, second son of Zelma (Poindexter) and Roger Mills Carter, was born at Sherman, Texas, on April 11, 1922. His father was a lawyer and district judge. Joe Carter was an honor student at Sherman High School and graduated in 1939. After graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin until the end of the 1942 fall semester when he withdrew to join the United States Army Air Forces. According to the June 29, 1950, edition of the Whitewright Sun, Carter served as a fighter pilot under Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle in the European Theater, and for his action he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. After World War II, Carter returned to the University of Texas, and in 1946 he received his bachelor of arts in government. He was awarded a law degree from the University of Texas Law School in 1948. Carter returned to Sherman and practiced law with his father from 1948 to 1953.
In 1948 Carter was elected to the Texas House of Representatives where he served District 44 (representing Grayson County) as a Democrat in the Fifty-first legislature. While in the House, Carter served on the Aeronautics, Criminal Jurisprudence, Game and Fisheries, Insurance, Insurance Code, and Judiciary committees.
When Senator Charles R. Jones of Bonham vacated his Texas State Senate seat, Carter ran for his seat for District 9 (representing Cooke, Fannin, and Grayson counties). Carter was elected and served in the Fifty-second legislature. While in the Senate, he served as the chair of the Counties and County Boundaries Committee, and he chaired the Public Debts, Claims and Accounts Committee. Additionally, Carter served as the vice chair for the Aeronautics, Insurance, and Public Printing committees. He was also a member of the Congressional Districts, Finance, Military and Veterans’ Affairs, Public Buildings and Grounds, and Public Health committees.
In the 1950s Carter began a long professional association with various water regulatory agencies in Texas. From 1953 to 1957 he served as the attorney for the Board of Water Engineers. In 1958 he became the executive secretary of the Texas Water Development Board and held that position until 1961. By 1962 Governor Price Daniel had appointed Carter to chair the Texas Water Commission (which was named the Texas Water Rights Commission from 1965 to 1977). Carter was reappointed to this position in 1968 by Governor John Connally and subsequently reappointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe. When the Texas Water Commission was reorganized and renamed in 1977, Governor Briscoe named Carter its chairman.
Carter died of cancer on October 3, 1978, at Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. He was fifty-six years old. At his death, it was said that he “had the confidence of Texas governors over the past 20 years in state water matters.” He left behind a wife, Theresa Carter, and two children, Kathleen Sides and Christopher Wayne Carter. Carter is buried in Austin at the Texas State Cemetery in the Republic Hill section.