The Real Jeb and Dash: The Quest for Carter & Isham

Carter Synoptic Bio

Carter & Isham | Companion Volume 1 | Prologue | Introduction | Photo Journal | Selected Entries | Carter Synoptic Bio | Happy 119th Birthday!, Carter - October 17, 1899 (2018)

Carter Bealer, 1937

Pseudonymously christened ‘Jeb Alexander’ by his niece Ina Russell in her edited, published version of his diaries Jeb and Dash: A Diary of a Gay Life, 1918 - 1945, Carter Newman Bealer was born in Atlanta, Georgia on October 17, 1899[1], but his real story begins at the age of twelve with the diaries he would keep for the next fifty or so years, stopping just a year before his death in 1965. The reported fifty volumes of diaries that Ina distilled into one book chronicles Carter’s life and his longtime friendship with Isham W. Perkins (Dash) as well as a host of other friends, coworkers, acquaintances and family members--the events largely centered around Washington, DC.  

The simple death announcement in a local
Washington, DC newspaper quietly distilled Carter’s life into the fragile sentence: “On Tuesday, May 11, 1965, Carter Newman Bealer.”[2] As ordinary as this notice was, Carter’s life was not indistinct. Without his diaries and, perhaps just as importantly, the edited published version thereof, we would know nothing of his compelling story as a gay man living in the first half of twentieth century America. This is where his legacy begins.

Carter’s story, as presented by Ina, begins in 1918, the year he entered college, and ends in 1945, some 20 years before his death. Though his diaries, according to Russell, actually span the years 1912 - 1964, these early and later diary entries were omitted from the work because, according to Ina, “Some early entries had charm, but domestic history of the time is well known and nothing new seemed to emerge,”[3] and as for the later years Ina writes that Carter “…quietly reported ‘the nothingness of the last eighteen years…’”[4]

Though Carter’s story as reflected in the published diaries begins in the year 1918, when he is 18 years old, he began his life in Atlanta, Georgia, the second son born to Pierre McFarland and Alba (Newman) Bealer. It was, as it turned out, not the place where Carter and his family would put down their roots.

In the published version of Carter’s diaries, in an entry dated
1 June 1919, Carter writes, “Today is the anniversary of the death of my real mother.” But according to published reports, Alba (Newman) Bealer died January 13, 1904, not June, in Atlanta, Georgia; she would have been about 31 years of age.[5] Several days after she gave birth to their first daughter, the baby passed away and Alba was stricken with diphtheria, dying a few days later. [6] Carter was four years old at the time, as he states in the published diary entry.[7] His brother Pierre M. Jr. was the oldest and his brother Lewis the youngest, there being about two years difference between Carter and his older and younger brother.*[8] Carter viewed this event as having played a pivotal role in his life, lamenting on more than one occasion in the published diaries “…how much richer and happier would our lives have been had she lived.”[9]

At the time of Alba’s death, Carter’s father was already a manager for the Great Atlantic and Pacific (A & P) Tea Company in Atlanta, Georgia**;[10] a company for which he would work for the remainder of his long career.[11] On October 12, 1905, Pierre married Ernestine Alberti Brumby, less than two years following Alba’s death, and just five days before Carter’s sixth birthday. They were married in Winder, Georgia, and the ceremony was performed by
Pierre’s brother, the Reverend Alexander Bealer.[12] Ernestine was 26 years of age and Pierre was approximately 37 years old. Ina, either according to her own pronouncement or perhaps Carter’s habit, refers to Ernestine in the published diaries as ‘Mama.’ Ernestine was born in Athens, Georgia on February 16, 1879.[13] Pierre’s marriage to Ernestine produced three more children: Dorothea (1906), Hartford (1909), and Edwin (1915).[14]  Dorothea was Ina’s mother.[15]

Pierre Sr. moved the family to Washington, DC circa 1908, where his career was identified closely with the merchandising growth of the A & P Company.[16] In 1910, Carter and his family were living at 1837 Monroe Street in the Mount Pleasant area not far from their future home at 1424 Longfellow Street, NW in a part of the city known as the Brightwood area.[17] The home on Longfellow is the one in the picture that Ina includes in Jeb and Dash and the home where Carter, as an adult, spent time with his family on Sundays, according to the published diaries.

Carter’s first and middle names were given to him as a namesake of his mother’s brother, Charles Carter (C.C.) Newman.[18] Alba was the daughter of Mrs. J.S. (Elberta Lewis) Newman and Professor James Stanley (J.S.) Newman, professor of agriculture at Clemson College in South Carolina.[19] Though it’s impossible to know without asking Ina, Carter’s pseudonym, Jeb Alexander, may have been based, in part, on his paternal uncle’s name, the Reverend ‘Alexander’ Winkler Bealer or perhaps it was an homage to Ernestine’s father, Dr. ‘Alexander’ Brevard Brumby.

In an entry dated
Sunday, 26 May 1929 (Clemson College, South Carolina), Carter is traveling and he writes, “The train entered South Carolina and how strange it seemed to be in my mother’s [Alba’s] home state. Spartanburg, Greenville– finally Calhoun. Uncle Jeb, bald and in a white suit, was at the station to meet me. Grandmother sat in the back seat, feeble of memory.” Though Alba had more than one brother, Uncle Jeb is presumably Carter’s namesake, Charles Carter, and his grandmother was Alba’s mother, Elberta, who was about 92 years old at this time; she would pass away by that December.[20] Calhoun is adjacent to Clemson, South Carolina, where Clemson College (as it was designated then, not a university as it is known today) is located. Both Alba’s father, James Stanley Newman, and her brother, Charles Carter Newman, taught at Clemson College where there is a building named in their honor, Newman Hall. James Stanley Newman was professor of Agriculture from 1892 - 1905, and Charles Carter was professor of horticulture from 1899 - 1946.[21] It seems fitting that Carter Bealer was named after this uncle, because he too would go on to have a long career in the field of agriculture, albeit with the United States government and in an entirely different vein than that of his grandfather and uncle.

*To view a photo of Carter and his young brothers (Pierre and Lewis) posing with their father in Atlanta, Georgia, visit the Digital Library of Georgia's Vanishing Georgia project, and search 'Pierre Bealer.' 

**To view  a photo of Pierre Bealer in front of the store he managed in Atlanta, Georgia, visit the Digital Library of Georgia's Vanishing Georgia project, and search 'Pierre Bealer.'

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