An exhibit of art by Carter and his sons is on display at Gloucester Arts on Main throughout February in celebration of Black History Month.
A Northumberland County native, Carter was 18 years old when he was drafted into the Navy at the end of World War II and served a stint as a longshoreman. After leaving service, he worked as a menhaden fisherman until he got his first job lettering. In 1957, he moved to Gloucester so he could pursue a career as a sign painter.
Along with him came his wife, Grace, and their small family, which eventually grew to include six children—sons Vernon Jr., Tyrone, Carroll and Gregory, and daughters Jacqueline and Janice.
Carter was an expert at lettering, said Vernon Jr., with the ability to make letters the proper size and to space them correctly without resorting to stencils. His customers found him to be dependable and honest, and pretty soon he was lettering boats, windows, billboards, signs, trucks and anything else that needed to be lettered. In addition, his artwork on logos and other images was impressive.
"It was all free-hand," said Vernon Jr. "He was an extremely talented man."