Truth be told: 'Rev' remains a vigilant county board watchdog
Lloyd Carter Jr. sees his responsibility as a public servant to watch out for the average person's interests.
A longtime electrician, the Champaign County Board member from north Urbana has been critical of cost overruns at the county's new $24 million nursing home. He regularly calls for more minority workers to be used on county projects.
At 77, he's a little hard of hearing from working at a forge, but he's still full of spit and vinegar at the board's sometimes windy evening meetings.
"I just say the truth," is how the veteran Democrat puts it.
Carter was recently given the National Council of African-American Men's Community Achievement Award.
He has served on the county board since first being elected in 1992. He also served on the Urbana City Council from 1968 to '74. And he has served as president of the Champaign County NAACP.
Former county board Chairwoman Patricia Avery said there's more to Carter than his self-described outspokenness.
"I think he genuinely cares about the people of Champaign County and wants to be a representative who looks out for his constituency," Avery said – in a word, "a watchdog."
A minister's son who has attended Free Will Baptist Church for 53 years, Carter's nickname in the community is "Rev."
"He is grounded in his faith," Avery said. "I think that helps show the compassionate, humanistic side of Lloyd Carter."
Carter was born in Edwards, Miss., but has lived here since his teens, except for five years in the Navy.
By the time of his Navy service, he had already started work at Clifford-Jacobs in Champaign. As much as he is proud of his service during the Korean War, Carter is also a family man with five grown children – one of whom is in the military now – and four grandchildren.
So after five years, he made the decision to leave the Navy and rejoin Clifford-Jacobs in maintenance and as an electrician.
"The Navy was great. But I had a family, and the Navy didn't pay as well as Clifford-Jacobs," he said.
He worked there for 21 years. In 1971, he left to start Carter's Electrical Contracting Co., one of the first black-owned firms of its type.
About 15 contractors at the time started Afro-American Consolidated Contracts, drafting Carter because they needed an electrical specialist. Most of them are dead now, including his mentor, Elmer Brown.
He studied for two years at the county's Opportunities Industrialization Center to hone his skills, then went to the banks to ask for seed money.
"That was the hard thing then, getting any financing" for a black-owned business, he said.
Carter's company did the electrical work for several local churches, notably Salem Baptist Church, as well as the Douglass Center. He has worked all over the state, including the substations at the former Chanute Air Force Base.
And he still keeps his hand in, giving his voice some resonance at county board meetings when he questions costs for county building projects.
He also continues to go to Masonic meetings, including serving as the past potentate of Shriner Sudan Temple 93, where he mentors young black men – many of whom call him "Rev."