Harvey Denison Carter, Jr., attorney, politician, conservationist, preservationist, and professor

Harvey Denison Carter, Jr., resident of South Burlington, passed peacefully at the McClure Miller Respite House after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Harvey was born in New York City, on November 2, 1938, and was raised in Scarsdale, NY. He was a well-regarded attorney, politician, conservationist, preservationist, and professor.  To those who had the good-fortune to know Harvey, he was a most loving, encouraging and loyal friend. He was a tenacious advocate for his clients and for those causes he believed in, but did not hold grudges.

Harvey was a graduate of The Choate School, Williams College and the Duke University School of Law. Before establishing a law practice in Bennington with R. Marshall Witten, who remains his dearest friend, Harvey served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Manhattan. He represented the Town of Pownal, as a Republican, in the 1970 legislative session that passed Act 250. He was instrumental in shaping the final version of Vermont’s iconic environmental law. In the 1970s Harvey brought lawsuits challenging conventional regulation of nuclear power and interstate highway projects.  In the 1980s, he litigated water-quality issues at ski resorts. As a result of a ruling that Harvey won, the Vermont Legislature upgraded the regulation of discharges into surface waters. With his good friend and fellow legislator Thomas H. Foster, Harvey organized the Mt. Anthony Preservation Society in Bennington, and successfully conserved the region’s signature mountain.

Harvey returned to serve in Montpelier in 1984, as a Democratic Senator from Bennington County. He campaigned door-to-door in every town in the county, and became a Saturday morning fixture at municipal transfer-stations.  Harvey made a habit of appearing early in the Statehouse dining room to chat with his colleagues; his ebullient personality and willingness to listen allowed him to reach easily “across the aisle.” He read virtually every bill that was introduced.  His legal training and precise writing skills improved bills that became law and those that never left committee. Harvey was proud to have been the lead sponsor of a pioneering bill to protect the rights of gay Vermonters.

A few years after leaving the Senate in 1988, Harvey joined his beloved wife Mary as she pursued her graduate degree at Cornell University. Possessing a track record of excellence in teaching environmental and land use law for many years at Williams College, University of Vermont and Vermont Law School, he was hired by Cornell to teach graduate courses on historic preservation law.  For many years thereafter, he returned to Cornell to teach a biennial course in the Department of City and Regional Planning. Harvey was a willing and hard-working partner on Mary’s sheep farm as he continued a limited law practice as long as health allowed.

Harvey was confident, but never boastful. He possessed the qualities he most admired in his own two sons, those of fair mindedness and modesty. In 2009, Harvey was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He kept his good cheer and gregarious ways, but struggled with day-to-day life. His step-daughter, Sara, paid tribute to Harvey at the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association annual dinner in 2017: “One of the most heartfelt things he has shared is the overwhelming pride and affection he feels towards me. There is a deep connection of admiration and appreciation that exists between us. In this advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, I could not have asked for a greater gift.” Indeed, he remained proud and supportive of his children and step-children, and in his final days, displayed an amazing light of lucidity at just the moment his two sons entered the room, taking the opportunity to pass on fatherly advice and to assure them that things were okay.

Harvey is survived by his wife, Mary Stannard Carter of So. Burlington; his son, Harvey D. Carter III and wife Cherie, of Pownal, VT, and son Howard Cleave Carter and wife Patricia of North Adams, MA; his grandchildren, Trey Carter, Adrianna Carter and Croft Carter; his former spouse Gertrude Cleave Carter; his step-daughters Sara (Kelly) Byers and Abby Reardon; as well as step-granddaughters Oceana Reardon, Tyler Reardon and Ella Byers.

Harvey was a donor to the Anatomical Gift Program at UVM Medical School, and Stephen C. Gregory and Son facilitated his transfer. The family wishes to express thanks to the many who cared for Harvey throughout his illness and at the end of his life. We are most grateful for the loving and expert care he received in the hands of his visiting hospice team, at the Grandway Adult Daycare Program, and during his short respite stay.

Memorial services will be held at a later date. If you wish to make a donation in Harvey’s memory, we suggest an offering to any organization that protects our natural resources or works to maintain the dignity of the world’s most vulnerable inhabitants.