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May 13, 2010

Actress Dixie Carter Passes at 70

The Tennessee-bred star achieved fame on the CBS comedy Designing Women and earned an Emmy nomination for Desperate Housewives.

Dixie Carter, an actress who achieved renown as one of the stars of the television comedy Designing Women, died April 10, 2010, in Houston, Texas, from complications of cancer. She was 70.

On Designing Women, which aired on CBS from 1986-1993, Carter played Julia Sugarbaker, one of a pair of sisters who ran an Atlanta interior design firm. Delta Burke played the other sister, Suzanne Sugarbaker.

Other costars included Annie Potts, Jean Smart and Meshach Taylor. In addition, Carter’s husband, actor Hal Holbrook, appeared regularly on the series as Julia Sugarbaker’s boyfriend, Reese Watson.

The second of three children, Carter was born in 1939 in McLemoresville, Tennessee.

Her father, a grocery and department store owner, died three years ago at 96.

Carter made her stage debut in a 1960 production of Carousel in Memphis. She went on to establish a thriving musical-theater career before segueing into television in the 1970s. She appeared in daytime dramas, and in the 1980s had substantial recurring roles in the series on Diff’rent Strokes and Filthy Rich. Those two parts led to Designing Women.

When Designing Women ended, Carter continued to work regularly. She appeared on the CBS drama Family Law from 1999 to 2002, and in 2007 earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for a guest role as the mother-in-law to Marcia Cross’s Bree on the ABC series Desperate Housewives.

Carter and Holbrook, who married in 1984, lived in the Los Angeles area, but she traveled to Tennessee frequently. The couple first met in 1980 while making the television movie The Killing of Randy Webster. Most recently, they appeared together in her final project, the 2009 independent film That Evening Sun, which was shot in her beloved Tennessee.

In addition to Holbrook, Carter is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage.

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