Dixie Carter has passed away at the age of 70. Her last acting role was just a year ago in the film The Evening Sun with her husband, Hal Holbrook. Of her death, he said, “This has been a terrible blow to our family.”
Carter was best known to TV audiences as Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women, a show about a group of women running an interior design firm. She starred along with Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, and Meshach Taylor.
Her television career included many other series as well, both before and after the popular CBS sitcom. They included stints on soaps One Life to Live and The Edge of Night, the 1977-78 CBS sitcom On Our Own, and Out of the Blue for ABC. In the early 1980s, she starred with Delta Burke in a parody of Dallas called Filthy Rich. That didn’t last and she went on to star as Conrad Bain’s new wife on Diff’rent Strokes. She left that show after a year to move to Designing Women, which lasted for seven seasons.
After some time away, Carter returned to television in Ladies Man in 1999 and then the legal drama Family Law for two seasons. More recently, she had a memorable run as Bree’s mother-in-law on Desperate Housewives and was nominated for an Emmy for the role. Housewives creator Marc Cherry supposedly got his start in Hollywood as Carter’s personal assistant during the Designing Women years.
While her characters were often very liberal-minded, Carter herself jokingly considered herself to be “the only Republican in show business.” She made a deal with the producers of Designing Women that, for every speech her character gave on the show, she would get to sing a song on a future episode.
In addition to her television work, Carter was also a veteran of the stage with plays like Master Class and The Winter’s Tale and musicals like Sextet, Pal Joey, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Carter’s family initially preferred to keep the cause of her death private, but later Holbrook noted that the cause of death was due to complications of endometrial cancer.