Eunice Hunton Carter was a social worker and prosecutor whose investigative work in New York City in the 1930s led to what was then the largest prosecution of organized crime in US history.
When notorious mob boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano met his downfall, the credit went to the young prosecutor Thomas Dewey, who eventually ran for president.
But it was Carter, an assistant district attorney on his team, who laid the foundation for the case.
Carter was born in Atlanta, the granddaughter of enslaved people. In 1932, she became the first Black woman to graduate from Fordham Law School – at a time when few lawyers were Black or women, let alone Black women.
By then Carter was already married to a dentist and had a son, but she had no interest in being a society mom.
She soon became the first African American woman in New York state to serve as assistant district attorney. As the only woman on Dewey’s team, which had been assembled to fight organized crime, she was relegated to mostly prosecuting crimes against women, such as prostitution.
But while doing so, she discovered that brothels in New York were controlled by Luciano’s mob, which received a share of their earnings in exchange for legal representation. Her painstaking investigative skills built the case against Luciano and led to his conviction in 1936.
Later Carter went into private practice and on to a litany of other accomplishments, including a committee chair at the United Nations.