John Carter, 86, Guyana's first ambassador to the United States and a key figure in the pre- independence turmoil of what was, before 1966, British Guiana, died Feb. 23 of congestive heart failure at Suburban Hospital. He had lived in Bethesda since 1983.
In 1952, Mr. Carter founded the United Democratic Party, which vied for power over the years in British Guiana with the leftist People's Progressive Party.
John Carter founded the United Democratic Party in 1952.
In 1953, six months after the People's Progressive Party won a landslide election, British Guiana's colonial governor suspended the constitution, dismissed the PPP governor and installed an interim government. Throughout the 1950s, the Cold War powers, fearing the PPP's Marxist inclinations, felt compelled to meddle in the politics of the tiny South American nation, which, in effect, delayed independence.
In 1958, the United Democratic Party merged with the People's National Congress, led by Forbes Burnham, and Mr. Carter became the PNC's first chairman. Guyana became an independent nation May 26, 1966.
John Patrick Gregorio Carter was born in Cane Grove, a tiny, rural community on the eastern coast of Guyana's Demerara River. He grew up in Georgetown, the capital, where he starred at cricket and soccer.
In 1939, he left his native land for London, where he received bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws degrees from the University of London.
He became the general secretary of the League of Coloured Peoples, an organization that attempted to address discrimination against Africans in England.
Every Saturday night during World War II, he delivered a BBC radio broadcast that began: "This is London calling the West Indies." A nephew, Vibert Lampkin, now a judge in Ontario, Canada, recalled that Mr. Carter's mother would hear that familiar, faraway voice and breathe a sigh of relief. "Well, at least I know my son is still alive," she would say. Only after the war did her son reveal that the broadcasts were recorded days in advance.
He returned to his homeland in 1945 and opened a law practice in Georgetown. In 1948, he was elected to the legislature, at 29 the youngest member of the body. For the next two decades, he was deeply involved in Guyanese politics.
In 1962 he became a member of the Queen's Council, the colony's highest court. From 1962 to 1966, he also was pro-chancellor of the University of Guyana.
He became Guyana's ambassador to the United States in 1966. That year, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. He also was appointed Guyana's permanent representative to the United Nations and high commissioner to Canada, posts he held from 1966 to 1970.
In 1968, he served as vice chairman of the U.N. General Assembly during its 23rd session.
In 1970, he was appointed high commissioner to the Court of St. James's in Britain, with concurrent accreditations as ambassador to several other European nations, as well as the Soviet Union and India. Between 1970 and 1975, he was chairman of the Commonwealth Sanctions Committee, which helped formulate the British Commonwealth's policy on Zimbabwe's unilateral declaration of independence and South Africa's apartheid.
In 1976, he served as ambassador to the People's Republic of China, with concurrent accreditations as ambassador to Japan and North Korea. He also served as a delegate and as head of special missions to Australia, Singapore, Zambia, Tanzania and several other African nations.
In 1981, he was appointed high commissioner to Jamaica, where he served until his retirement from the diplomatic corps in 1983.
He lived in Bethesda from his retirement until his death, although he made frequent visits to Guyana. He also worked as a consultant to Golden Star Resources Ltd., a Canadian mining company with interests in Guyana.
Mr. Carter was a member of Chevy Chase United Methodist Church.
His marriage to Dorothy Frasier ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Sara Lou Carter of Bethesda; two children from his first marriage, Gillian Case and Jennifer Carter-Clarke, both of London; two children from his second marriage, John Carter Jr. of Gaithersburg and Brian Carter of Bethesda; a stepdaughter from his second marriage, Robin Marston of Mitchellville; a sister; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.