Actress and singer Dixie Carter died the morning of Saturday, April 10, at the age of 70. She is survived by her husband of 26 years, Hal Holbrook, and her daughters from her first marriage to businessman Arthur Carter (no relation), Mary Dixie and Ginna.
When I checked Ms. Carter’s biography on Wikipedia, I was surprised to learn that she was a libertarian and described herself as “the only Republican in Hollywood.” Her most famous role was Julia Sugarbaker on the TV comedy series “Designing Women,” which ran from 1986 to 1993. Julia was a liberal and famous for her scathing rants. Ms. Carter made a deal with the show’s producers that for every liberal rant she had to deliver, she would get to sing in a future show.
I’m so glad that YouTube has a clip from “Designing Women” of Ms. Carter singing the inspiring old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” As I recall the plot of that episode, Jean Smart’s character, Charlene, has a crisis of faith when she learns that her religion does not allow women to become ministers. In a scene before the clip, Charlene tells her minister that she must leave his church and her religion because their policy does not match her experience of God. When Charlene enters Julia’s church while Julia is singing “How Great Thou Art,” it symbolizes her affirmation of her faith in God as she joins Julia’s church — this is why Julia seems sad and tentative as she begins singing and her voice becomes strong and soaring when she sees Charlene:
The next clip is from a “Designing Women” reunion show and I’m including it because the actresses mention Julia’s most famous and beloved rant of the entire series, which is known as, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” They report it is a favorite monologue for drag queens to perform in gay bars. And I’m also including it for their expression of love to the gay members of their audience and pledge of support for gay marriage:
OK, now here it is, Dixie Carter’s most famous rant as Julia Sugarbaker, “The night the lights went out in Georgia”:
I will miss Ms. Carter and I send my condolences to her family and my prayers for her soul to be blessed always in every way.